28 October 2012

Choosing the Right Homeschooling Curriculum (Part 1)

Over the past month I met with quite a number of families new to homeschooling.  It is so great to see the excitement and passion with which these parents embark on this amazing journey with their children. It is thrilling to see how all kinds of families choose to homeschool from all walks of life, but one thing these families have in common is their confusion when choosing the RIGHT curriculum on a journey that is so unfamiliar and uncertain.  

What should one take into consideration when choosing a curriculum?

1.   Curriculum must serve you, you are not to serve the curriculum

I often see families who are burned out within 18 months after starting homeschooling, because they experience bondage to the curriculum they chose.  From as early as a mere 5 years old, families want to put their little ones onto a formal curriculum, mostly due to the pressure of families and friends’ whose children went to school at that age. Within a very short period little ones of 5 or 6 years old, as well as young teens, will experience resistance to education when it is expected of them to work for hours on prescribed subjects, they often don’t even have an interest in.  The children will need to perform like puppets and the mothers become discouraged to motivate their children, while trying to comply to the standards and tests of the curriculum they have chosen.

2.   Let your children’s personality and learning style guide their curriculum

Each child has a natural appetite for all knowledge, reflect a part of God’s creative nature and has a God-given curiosity, within their unique learning style. 

Homeschooling is such an opportunity to use this hunger for knowledge, creativity and curiosity and let children discover their talents and gifting in the safe environment of their home and under the loving, caring eye of their parents. 

Choose a curriculum in which you can develop their minds to the full, by taking into account your child’s learning style.  When a child is allowed to discover in the way he is a natural learner, learning will be fun and enjoyable for the child. 

When we just start homeschooling twelve years ago, we had the privilege to meet Martie Du Plessis from Dynamis who specialised to help home educating families discover their learning styles. We learned any child has the preference to learn kinaesthetically, visually or audibly. Most of my children are kinaesthetic and visual learners. As a result reading aloud is quite a challenge. They will not sit still and all of them want to see the pictures. 

If I wasn’t aware of their lack of preference in audible learning, I would have taken all the fun out of reading, by being extremely strict. 

On top of that you get children who are thorough, structured, systematic, analytical and objective. These children want as much knowledge as possible and thrive on organization and time to complete their work. Unreasonable deadlines and being rushed will stress them out. This child might look like the perfect homeschooling student in the digital era. They always have their knowledge ready, they analyze data before making a decision and are able to conceptualize ideas. This child of mine made it quite easy on me to look like a ‘successful’ homeschooling mother, who did everything ‘right’.

Then you get other children who lean more by being adventurous, curious, innovative and creative. They are quick, intuitive and instinctive. They thrive on inspiration, independence and freedom to choose options. Excessive restrictions and forced routine just kill their creativity and learning experience.  This child is quite a challenge to homeschool. They might give the impression of being stubborn, uncompromising, impulsive, not a team worker and asking too many ‘why questions’. Your typical child whom they put on mind altering drugs at the age of seven.  But if you can appreciate their sense of humour, multidimensional personality and creativity within their independence, you might just be able to raise quite a remarkable young adult who has the ability to change the world.

You might have a hardworking, organized, accurate and consistent child. They are dependable, conventional and factual by nature. They thrive on predictability and schedules. You will stress them out by too much to do when they do not have a clean and quiet place to learn, or an example to work form. I have one of these children. Due to these children’s natural organizing skill, productivity, ability to complete their tasks with ease while focusing on detail, I cannot cope without them in my home.

You might also have a sensitive, compassionate, sentimental and imaginative child. They are perceptive and spontaneous, the nurturing type. They thrive on praise, working together and having the opportunity to be creative. I cannot imagine how my home would have been if I didn’t have this child in my home. They spontaneously understand other’s feelings and are constantly concerned about others. Quite an asset in a busy home of ten.

Just imagine if I had not been aware of these differences in my children and I tried to teach them all in the same way? Homeschooling would become drudgery, a burden.

How will the above knowledge, applied to your children, influence the curriculum you choose?

3.   Choose a curriculum which spark them to discover as a natural, enjoyable part of family life.

Homeschooling is real life, don’t you agree? 

I often hear mothers’ concerns that life gets in the way of their homeschooling, and they are stressed out due to lengthy periods of time they are not able to do as much learning as what was ‘scheduled’. That is exactly how it should be - LIFE IS SCHOOL. 

Clay and Sally Clarkson compiled it beautifully in “Educating the WholeHearted Child” 
A curriculum making use of real life will always raise a child who does well on the test of real life.
The curriculum you use should allow you to use real life to spark your children to discover and learn.  I’m constantly attentive to what my children are interested in and to use that interest to make them learn.  Currently my home is filled with silkworms on all kinds of shapes and sizes, and we are learning, without my little ones even knowing it. 

A few months ago it was birds and bird nests.

We just returned from a short visit to George and Knysna, during which they applied so many of their knowledge gained over the past few months - lets call it revision. 

Years ago when I started homeschooling CJ our oldest child, I read Clay and Sally Clarkson’s “Educating the Wholehearted Child”. I loved their Home-Centered Learning Model. In this model they focused on five study areas as the child develop in their learning ability.
Discipleship Studies - The solid foundation for learning, with the purpose of shaping their hearts.  You can never try to fill a child’s mind with information and knowledge, if you don’t shape his/her heart first.

Disciplined Studies - The study of the ‘basics’ or 3R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic) and thinking, with the purpose of developing your children’s foundational learning skills. 

Discussion Studies - The study of the humanities - history, geography and fine arts, with the purpose to feed your children’s minds by giving them the best in living books.

Discovery Studies - The study of learning - nature, science, creative arts, all interests with the purpose to simulate in your children a love for learning by creating opportunities for curiosity, creativity and discovery.

Discretionary Studies - the finishing in the study of living, home and community life and life skills, with the propose to direct your children in developing a range of skills and abilities for adult life according to their gifts and your family’s circumstances and resources.

These 5 study areas come very natural in normal family life. 

The curriculum you choose should never isolate your child from real life.

4.   No easy curriculum

No matter what kind of curriculum you choose, it will ask lots and lots of sacrificing from the parents.  There is no easy curriculum with little involvement, minimal financial costs or no preparation which will equip your child for life. 

I love how Clay and Sally Clarkson phrase counting the cost of homeschooling in their book Educating the WholeHearted Child:
The cost of ministry - Willing to minister to your children… to become a servant like Jesus, giving up your own life for your children? 
The cost of lifestyle - Willing to accept, along with the joys and blessing, the limitations and sacrifices of the homeschooling lifestyle? 
The cost of commitment - willing to take a step of faith, trusting God to provide and intending in your heart to persevere in that decision? 

Are you willing to pay the cost?

5.   Let the curriculum shape your children to become everything God wants them to become and able to walk in the calling of their life.

The current trend in education aims to produce adults whom will have a ‘decent job’ and earn money to make a living.  How about educating your child to discover the calling on their life and walk in it, whether it is to fill a job of create a job?  Whenever a person discover the calling on his/her life, they will be satisfied, fulfilled, content and at peace. That is how God intend it. Many people I know at the age of 40 are discontent and searching for purpose, mostly because the first part of their life was all about labouring for a perfect job, a perfect life, which at the end didn’t satisfy or brought along the peace they were longing for. 

Homeschooling is the one place where we as parents should aim to expose our children to as many opportunities as possible, so they can: 

Discover their gifting and talents, which will direct them to their purpose in life and give them the satisfaction of seeing God work through them, changing the World.

This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African homeschoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have! Read more from this October 2012 Carnival here.

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With much love 

26 October 2012

Books that Influenced my Life (Part 1)

I absolutely love reading!

When I was still a little farm girl, my Dad built me a treehouse and I would spend hours in there reading one book after the other.  Both my parents loved reading. Since we lived on a farm, my mother would drive into town every Friday afternoon to get supplies for the next week, and we would not head home before we stopped at the local library!  It was the highlight of my week. The library was a double storage building, the adult books on the ground level and children books on the first floor.  I almost ran up the stairs to see what books I could find.  As I grew up, I loved to read “Ou Kaapse Verhale” (Stories on the early days of the Cape of Good Hope), always fiction, as my mother was always reading fiction. 

After I got married, Christo challenged me to read non-fiction. I wasn’t keen at all, I loved my fiction, and after all I read for the enjoyment and because I’m a dreamer. It took Christo 8 years, about the time when we started homeschooling, before I realized how I could empower myself by reading non-fiction books. Since then I read mostly non-fiction and only allow myself two Christian Fiction books a year. One in June and one in December. Mainly because I get so involved in the story, I easily loose track of time and are irritated when I’m interrupted. During the June and December holidays I can pace myself better in the more relaxed holiday atmosphere.

I often find myself not being able to read for a week or two, due to life’s happenings and hanging around on facebook or blogs. During these times, I become more easily irritated and rushed.  I need my time-out sessions of reading and filling my mind with wisdom, but I’ve realized if I don’t make time to read, the time to read will just run out like an hour glass. Since establishing habits in my life is often my life saver, my goal is to read at night, half an hour before we go to bed.

Not only do I benefit from challenging and encouraging books, my children also benefit when they see my love for books. 

It is interesting to observe families, when the parents love reading, the children will often follow in their footsteps and love books and reading too. I cannot think of a better gift I can bestow on my children than to spark in them a love for reading.

About two weeks ago, we painted our bedroom and had to move our book shelf from one wall to the other. While I was at it, I reorganized my books. 

What a joy!  I cherished the memories I recalled as I picked up each book and put it back on the book shelf with respect. I value each one as a very precious treasure, which guides me on my journey to maturity and making responsible choices in life.

I thought it good to share with you some of the books I’ve read over the years and which changed my life.  Since there are quite a number of books I’ve read, I will cover the books in a mini-series. It is my prayer that you will be blessed by reading about these treasures. 

I would like to start this mini-series with one of my two biggest passions in life: 


When I started Homeschooling my children 12 years ago, a good friend (new at that stage) recommended I read The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  

This book is a true treasure! It eased my concerns of ‘am I able and equipped to homeschool my own children’ in the chapter, “Of Course You Can Do It!”.  It also answered my question, “When Are They Ready for Formal Learning?” as well as the almost constant question by friends and family. “How Can They Possibly Be Socialized?”  This book truly laid a foundation for truthful thinking around home educating my children.

The same friend who recommended the Moore’s book, gave me a very powerful book:  50 Veteran Homeschoolers share Things We Wish We’d Known, compiled and edited by Bill and Diana Waring.  

Wow, what a fun reading book filled with truths that opened my mind to think out of the box and sparked in me a passion to homeschool my children. (Homeschooling the children was my husband’s vision, not mine at that stage. I only acted in obedience.)

Following on the chapter in the Moore’s book on “When Are They Ready for Formal Learning?” I got hold of the bright yellow, precious little book, Better Late Than Early, by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

This book nailed it for me and since then I was sold out to only start formal educating my children at the age of 10. Before that age I allow them to play and let them guide me in what they want to learn about, which by the way is more than I can fit in, in the few years before they are 10!  The interesting part was how each of our children after the age of 10, just flourished in their home educating and catch up with much ease on the years they played and received little formal education.  Especially in reading, writing and maths.

In the mean time Christo and I was involved with Walk through the Bible ministries and received a teaching, The Seven Laws of the Learner, by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson.  

The #1 truth I got from this teaching was, I as the Teacher are solely responsible to make my students (children) learn.  When my children don’t understand a concept or enjoy their learning, I have to be creative in making them understand or initiate change so they have a positive learning experience.  For example if my child doesn’t get the aha of understanding a math concept, it isn’t his/her fault, it is mine and I have to keep explaining until he/she understands. (By the way this is exactly what Steve Demme from Math-U-See promote with every lesson - look out for the aha moment, that is when a child’s brain ‘switches on‘ to the explanation of a maths concept, grabs it and ‘sees’ the answer.)

A book that benefit me big time in practical homeschooling, teaching models, teaching methods and learning styles was “Educating the Wholehearted Child” by Clay and Sally Clarkson

I became aware of the importance of  first reaching the heart of my child, before I try to fill his/her mind with information. This book benefitted me as it pointed out to me the difference between my education (Public education), how I was used to be educated and the education I’m going to give my children (Home education). If I was not aware of the huge difference between these two methods of education, it would greatly have handicapped our home education. It also eased me even more on “Yes, of course I can do it!”  The Clarkson’s visual presentation of the Home-Centered Learning Model, became our education model, incorporating Discipleship studies, Disciplined studies, Discussion studies, Discovery studies and Discretionary studies and making it our learning lifestyle.
I strongly recommend this amazing book.

As I implemented the Home-Centered Learning Model introduced by the Clarkson’s I recognized the value of Lapbooks as part of discovery studies.  The books that helped me tremendously in the art of lapbooking was The Ultimate LAP BOOK handbook, by Tammy Duby and Cyndy Regeling 

Dinah Zike’s Big Book Of Projects, by Dinah Zike 

Big Book of Books and Activities by Dinah Zike

Two more books that complemented my library on the How to Homeschool books were “Life Skills for Kids”, by Christine M. Field

Drawing with children, by Mona Brookes

As this journey of homeschooling prolonged, I realised it is a lonely, exhausting journey, which could leave me depleted from creativity, energy and joy, unless I have a bottomless Source from which I can withdraw in all the season’s I face in a year. Fortunately, over the years the Lord called amazing women to step forward and share and encourage us Homeschooling Mothers from their experience. One such lady is Sally Clarkson from Wholehearted Ministries, read more on her blog I Take Joy. Sally wrote a few books which not only empowered mothers in their high calling as a Mother, raising the next generation who will change the world, but especially homeschooling mothers.  Three books stood out for me: “The Ministry of Motherhood”, “The Mission of Motherhood” and “Season’s of a Mother’s Heart.” More on these books in the session on Motherhood/Parenting.

I also draw much encouragement from the little book, One Hundred and One, More Devotions for Homeschool Moms, by Jackie Wellwood

And a book that stood out in my journey as a homeschooling mother according to God’s heart is “Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit” by Teri Maxwell from Titus 2 ministries. 

Read more on DAD'S AND MOM'S CORNERS.  In this book Teri (mother of 8) identified the three main robbers of a meek and quiet spirit: Fear and Worry; Disorganization and Anger. This book spoke into my heart loud and clear.

In the next session I will share with you the books that spoke to me on Motherhood. How some laid the foundation and other built on my understanding of the high and noble calling on my life - Being a mother who love and nurture my children.

With much love

02 October 2012

Despot of the Oikos

I’ve just had the most therapeutic weekend in a long time! 

I’m feeling refreshed, energized and delighted!

No, I didn’t have a weekend all alone by myself in a cabin in the mountains... I painted my bedroom!  Yes, I absolutely love painting my house!  

There is more to this weekend’s painting.  It’s been coming a long way!  This December we will be living in our current home for 8 years. The day we moved in our home (2004), the older gentleman from whom we bought the house, informed us he didn’t have time to touch up the polyfilla patches on the walls (where pictures were hanging) and he left us with a little tin of cream coloured paint… Well, we couldn’t paint the spots, which was ‘screaming’ at me, either. The colour of the tin wasn’t matching the colour of the walls anymore, which had faded to a creamy colour. Those of you who know me in person, I’m not a neutral, creamy colour kind of girl…!  

I was pregnant with Andrew at that stage and was only able to start painting our home by the end of the next year, 2005.  Our living room and kitchen was the priority. I just couldn’t face the cream walls with white spots anymore! I enjoyed every moment covering the walls with the thick paint.  Before I was able to paint more rooms I was pregnant with David and a few months after David’s birth, beginning 2007, painted the baby’s room and the girls’ room.  I was even able to hand painted (with a stencil) a border in the boys’ rooms. 

My intention was to paint a border for the girls’ room too, but before I could get to do that, I was pregnant with Daniel, and we settled for a wall paper border.

While I was pregnant with Daniel, painting was on hold again.  Soon after Daniel’s birth (2008), my husband and oldest son painted my bathroom, of which the ceiling was covered with fungi. With 7 children, three boys 3 years and under, there was no way I could fit in the time to paint.  In 2009 we rejoiced in another pregnancy, but missed a year of painting another room. We didn’t want to expose the unborn baby to the poisonous painting fumes. Baby Michael was born early 2010, but life was busy and finances in short supply! June 2011 it was Heidi-Mari’s 15th birthday.  I was still recovering from my miscarriage earlier that year, so Christo and CJ jumped in and painted the dining room 

and entrance passage 

for her birthday tea.

By now our bedroom was in desperate need of painting, and thankfully next in line.  Fungi was growing on the south wall, against which our bed stand and the one corner of the ceiling was also covered with fungi!  The room was a mess!  But I was suffering multiple miscarriages and painting was postponed numerous times.

Then two weekends ago we rearranged the bedroom. We moved the bookshelf positioned against the south wall, to make space for a single bed for little Michael who is currently sleeping very badly and we hoped that if he could sleep in our room, I might get some more sleep.  As we moved the bookshelf from the wall, we were shocked to discover fungi covering the entire part where the bookshelf was against the wall. We realized we had to paint immediately! There was no way we could just wash away the fungi. Finally painting was possible - I wasn’t pregnant, there wasn’t a newborn baby in the home, and we had the money and time to do it! 

Three days later we moved our bed into the lounge, all the other furniture in our bedroom to the centre of the room, covered it with plastic and started washing the ceiling.  Christo and CJ did the ceiling in the evening and I would start painting the walls over the weekend. I couldn’t wait to put my hands to the painting brush. It was 5 years since I painted a wall. Christo gladly gave his permission for me to paint the room myself and send me off to the paint shop to choose the colour of the walls.  In consulting him about the colour he just smiled at me and said I may choose whatever colour will make me happy! By Thursday afternoon I got the most beautiful wall paper border for the south wall and chose the colour paint complimenting the shades of lovely roses in the wall paper.  

Friday morning I was like a little girl in anticipation of a very special gift!  The ceiling was painted and I could start with the walls. CJ took out all the nails in the wall and Josua helped me fill the holes with polyfilla.  By 2pm I poured out the painting in the pan and made a first brush on the wall!  

Heidi-Mari and Danika took care of the little boys and dinner, and I was having the time of my life painting my bedroom!  Andrew and David wanted to paint too, would paint the whole room if they could, but was quite happy to go play again after they painted the one wall’s skirting.

By Friday dinner time all four walls had their first layer of painting. Christo had his off weekend and Saturday morning joined me in my bliss of painting. I painted the ceiling-, floor and door borders (I’m a pain in how precise it must be) with the brush 

and he would fill in with the roller.  

Since quality time is one of my most important love languages, I couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting!  Painting my bedroom in the company of my dear husband and best friend!  We finished the room by 3pm and I just couldn’t get the smile of my face. It was beautiful! Our brand new bedroom in soft shades of pink, with a rose border wall paper for the one wall (which unfortunately will only arrive the end of this week).  

Now some of you might be shocked that I painted our bedroom pink. 

Did Christo approve the soft shades of pink, you might ask? Yes, he didn’t mind at all. Not because he is fond of pink, NO! It all went back to the year 2000, let me share with you.

During this time we were very actively involved with Walk Thru the Bible and part of the WorldTeach team by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson.  In 1997 we did our first biblical course on marriage, the Biblical Portrait of a Marriage. It absolutely changed our lives. 

In 2000 this course was supplemented with a Manhood and Womanhood series: 
Leading and Loving for the men

The Heart that makes a Home for the women.

Both these series would be attended by husband and wife.  During the 3rd session of the woman’s series on Helper, we learned two new Greek words and its meaning gave a total new perspective on my role as wife in our marriage.  

One of the main biblical principles for the Helper is to actively “manage the house” under her husband’s authority as the “Despot” of the “Oikos”.

Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” 1 Tim. 5:14

“...admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:4,5

As you might know, “oikos” is the Greek for “home” and its “surroundings”. “despot” a very strong word which means to “manage” and “rule”.  

This all boils down to:

1.  The wife not passive, nor independent, but actively managing/ruling over her home and its surroundings.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.”  Proverbs 31:27

2.  Not problem-dumping on her husband, but problem-solving.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,

And on her tongue is the law of kindness.”  Proverbs 31:26

3.  The wife who walks in her calling as a helper invests her life in her husband, freeing him to take care of tasks/activities which will make him “known in the gates”
She makes tapestry for herself;

Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

 Her husband is known in the gates,

When he sits among the elders of the land.

 She makes linen garments and sells them,

And supplies sashes for the merchants.”  Proverbs 31:22-24

4.  In the process she will earns her husband’s trust. 
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;

So he will have no lack of gain.  Proverbs 31:11

5.  She contributes to his well-being.”
She does him good and not evil

All the days of her life.”  Proverbs 31:12

I was pleasantly surprised, and overwhelmed at the same time, to hear that I’m the “Despot of our Oikos”. 
Does this really mean I’m in charge of our home? 
In charge like in making decisions concerning the home and its surroundings? 
Am I competent and skillful enough to make choices involving our home and property? 

Makes you think doesn’t it?

Who makes the final decisions?  
The wife who spends more time at her home, who manage her children in the home, or the husband who is the head of the family?  

I’m going to answer by quoting from the Heart that Makes the Home course Workbook:
“According to the Bible, the husband should defer to his wife in this matter. The husband is still the head of the family, but when it comes to matters of the house and its property, the Bible is clear.  The wife is in charge of the home. When it comes to decorating, she should be given the final word. When it comes to remodeling, the plans should be drawn based on her vision of what the home should look like, what she prefers. According to Proverbs 31, the wife is free to manage the home, generate profit, and show compassion to the poor as she sees fit. In fact, the Greek word literally describes her as the “absolute ruler” or “monarch” of the home. This is the strongest word in the Bible used to describe a leader. 
Of course this doesn’t mean the wife should be a tyrant about it. But it does mean that the wife’s instincts should take precedence over the husband’s when it comes to the home. Ideally, husband and wife will treat each other’s opinions with love and respect. 
This can be a touchy subject for some couples.  It requires that the husband and wife be in complete agreement on this issue.  The wife should NOT force the matter on her husband, but should be patient and sensitive to his point of view.  Turning to the other extreme, it’s not an excuse to dump an overwhelming number of responsibilities on the wife either. So it may take some time before couples fully understand and embrace God’s design for the homemaker together.”
And over the years this is exactly what happened in our home.  Gradually my husband gave over the matters of our home and property to me.  He especially handed over decorating our home. With me taking into account the budget and his preferences, I’m free to do as I want. For this reason he gladly allowed me to choose the colour of our bedroom.  It amuses him to see my delight in our bedroom’s decorating, the joy with which I go around in our room, and the same in the rest of our home.  

This was a very challenging matter in the beginning.  There were many times that we were not in one accord about decorating our home and for that matter me managing our home and surroundings. He would give his reasons and concerns, and I gave mine. But by the grace of God, we could work it out, and now a few years later it is much easier for Christo to step back. He has come to trust my instinct even more, as I proved to him that he and our family is of first and utmost importance to me. After all it is not about me, but about us - we are one. When he is caused harm, I’m harmed too. 

This is a big responsibility on the wife. It is asking great maturity from her, to not take advantage of this privilege, not acting selfish or use it as a weapon against her husband. To always keep in mind he is the head of the family and as long as she moves together  with him as one, they will reap the blessing in their marriage - honoring God and what He wants to accomplish through their Oneness.

With much love

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