09 April 2014

Homeschooling CJ - The End of A Season

He was only 3 or 4 years old when his Dad suggested we homeschool him. I thought he was out of his mind! Why would any parent in his/her right mind even consider homeschooling? I’m not a qualified teacher, although it was my first choice of occupation, but I was convinced I would mess up my child’s life forever! History now proved that I didn’t mess up his life although the general public, family and friends, may still believe I did.

When CJ was 5 years old Christo and I attended a Walk Thru the Bible conference. By the end of the first day, I had breakfast, lunch and supper with 3 total different parents who homeschool their children… this was weird! We talk about the year 1999. During that time there were only a few hundred homeschooling families in South Africa. What were the chances to meet 3 families - total strangers who homeschool their children, at a “Non-homeschooling conference”?

That evening, while quietly reflecting on the day, in a dormitory with 3 other couples, I had to confess to Christo, and God, I’m NOT at the conference to receive training in presenting the Walk Thru the New Testament Seminar for Children… No, I was here so the Lord could get my attention about Homeschooling…

Four months later, while I was past my due date with Baby Josua, CJ decided he was not going back to his Preschool. He needed to check on his mother when she was going into labour and after all, he was going to be homeschooled, why bother going back to a classroom, and missing out on real life!

As the saying goes: “The rest is history.” The week his brother Josua was born, we started homeschooling…. The first week was awesome. I would nurse baby Josua to sleep, while CJ was doing simple maths and then we would gather on the sofa, reading books. I could do it…

The “homeschool-honeymoon” was over within weeks. Baby Josua became more attentive and demanding, Heidi-Mari (only 3years old) needed stimulation too and I didn’t know how to do this homeschooling thing.  

It was during that time that Martie du Plessis, from Dynamis and her, then 13year old daughter Chamonix, visited Cape Town and the Lord miraculously worked behind the scenes that they stayed with us for a few days, before visiting the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. What I learned about my child and myself during those few days was amazing and we were more on track with homeschooling. 

The next year brought a heap of challenges. We moved into a small two bedroom house, the garage our storeroom, as well as homeschool room. There was no money for resources, I was isolated and very insecure. It was the year 2000, and I haven’t heard of the internet, let alone google or supporting homeschool Facebook groups…

Over the next decade our family grew from 5 to 10 and we moved another two times.

My life was dominated with pregnancies and nursing babies. Not an easy task for someone who didn’t plan this kind of life for as long as she could remember. Never in my life had I imagined having a larger family and homeschool them.  My extended family didn’t approve either and I was all by myself. 

Over the years there was a pattern of ups and downs, success and failures, victory and disappointments. By God’s grace, as my children grew up, I grew up too. There were countless sleepless nights and chaotic days filled with exhaustion, insecurity and doubt in my ability to make homeschooling work.  BUT there were also the times when the Lord encouraged me and graciously gave me a peep into the future. The future He was busy bringing together. Often I would fall in a pitt of despair, fearing that I was messing up my children’s lives.  Each and every time my dear husband would observe and speak words of peace and confidence, “Everything is going fine; they will be fine.”

There were the times when CJ won the World Wide Apologia Science Question of the Week Competition (twice) at the age of 14. Another when he started to do horse riding stunts for movies at the age of 16. All of these brought into his life by God’s invention.

As you can imagine many homeschooling curriculums came and had gone over the past 14 years, as homeschooling was becoming more popular. It became quite a maize to decide which curriculum is the ‘best’. It was necessary to be focused; to have a philosophy; to measure the homeschooling currents accordingly and make decisions that would correspond with and support  our goals in raising our Children. For us, homeschooling was a learning lifestyle, based on gaining life skills and searching for the calling on each child’s life.  Everything else was secondary to this one goal: to guide each child in finding their God-given dream, their purpose in life, and allowing God to show the way to fulfil that purpose.

Not much changed over the 14 years we homeschooled CJ. He was our visual learner, and the way we started out homeschooling him in 2000, was the way we homeschooled till the end.

As CJ grew older we were bombarded with questions about high school and what we were going to do for matric - THAT piece of paper you need, to move on to the next level of education.  When CJ was 13 years old we earnestly prayed about his future and whether we should pursue a more formal education to receive a matric qualification. Surprisingly the Lord was clear. It was not his will for CJ’s life to change his way of learning up to that point. We gladly accepted the Lord’s guidance and CJ continued with Maths-U-See, LLATL and Science, while participating in real life. 

Often his studies would be interrupted by periods of being on set for a movie;

Helping out in Dad’s health shop; pursuing a new interest like archery 

or just supporting his larger family in every day life, days of bad health, or the arrival of a new baby.

CJ gradually came to find his purpose and his future was taking shape. Then at the age of 17 we went through a time of doubt and we considered doing Cambridge. All possibilities was taken in account, but just a few months later, we strongly experienced the Lord calling it off. Again we gladly  submitted to the Lord’s will and just went on doing what we were used to. Waiting on the Lord’s next step.

This continued until CJ turned 19 years old in August 2013. He was still working on Algebra 2 and Pre Calculus, Apologia’s Physics and Gold LLATL, but I could sense in CJ a restlessness and lack in motivation. Christo and my prayers became more intense. “Please Lord, show the way, open the doors. CJ needs to move on now.” It was December 2013, when one evening, I went to my son and asked him, “If money was no option, what would you do with your life in 2014?” Without hesitation he answered, “I will start my Private Pilot License!”  CJ wanted to be a pilot, but for some reason he held back to pursue his dream.  He needed something to push him into the right direction.

Only days after that evening, somewhere between Christmas and New year I woke up with an intense knowing CJ must do GED. Oh, I was following the GED Yahoo groups and some friends’ children was doing it, but why in the world would we consider it? But that morning I woke up with another perspective, why not? As I was pondering the possibility, one thing was clear, I would NOT push my son in doing GED. I will give him the option and all my support, but it would be his decision. That morning at the breakfast table I brought up the subject and asked him if he would consider doing it. To my biggest surprise, his face lit up and without thinking twice he decided to do it!

Instantaneous CJ’s mood and attitude changed! There was new spark in his eyes, he was focused. It was almost like he waited for this all his life and he couldn’t wait to make it happen. 

January 2014 we registered with GED testing services and enrolled in the GED online tutoring. I also downloaded a Free Master the GED pdf file of more than 880 pages. I foresaw him doing the test the end of 2014, giving the year to prepare.  CJ was more adventurous and wanted to write the exam middle 2014. He started the second week of January, beginning with the Diagnostic tests in Master the GED. To our surprise CJ scored over 80% in Maths, and Science, 70% in English writing and reading, but just passed the Social Study section.  

CJ was motivated and excited! He now wanted to write in April. I outwardly approved, not wanting to discourage him, but seriously, he needed to be realistic and give himself enough time to prepare… 

During January and the first two weeks of February, CJ diligently worked a few hours a week on his GED, while continuing with his LLATL, Apologia and Maths-U-See. Then on the 10th of February I got a message from a friend, “Did you hear? The GED test facility in Cape Town is closing down permanently on the 21st of March?” It was such a shock, I first went into denial. For a few hours I just refused to think about it, to investigate or think about the implications… By the time I went to bed, I was in a panic. I couldn’t breathe and I was calling out to God, “What were we going to do!?” 

The next morning we faced the facts. CJ could still write the exams in Johannesburg, whenever he feels ready. Johannesburg is 1,500 km from here, we could book into a hotel for a week and write the 5 papers over 5 days, and it would cost us quite a few thousand rands! Or, we could bring forward his exams, write it in Cape Town before the 21st of March, giving us less than a month for final preparations, and see how it goes.  The latter option where the logical decision, after all we couldn’t lose anything, except the $50 for each paper, should he fail!

I was in total confusion! Dear Lord, why is this happening now? Why this pressure? But then, the name of my year is Soul Rest, the Lord knows how I’m prone to delay things under the excuse of perfecting it. Was this just yet another way the Lord is directing CJ’s steps, in spite of the human failures of his Mother? I knew the Lord was up to something big, but oh, my sinful nature threatened to overwhelmed me. 

For the next 2 and a half weeks CJ studied 5hours plus a day on the five subjects - Maths, Science, Language reading, Language writing and Social Studies. I will lie if I said it was smooth sailing. It was an extreme testing time for me. CJ was focused and enjoyed his learning; I was stressed and panicking. GED is a general knowledge exam. It fits perfectly in our philosophy of homeschooling, it sure would give an exact picture of what we did over the past 14 years and if our approach had worked.  

By the 1st of March I was a wreck, but CJ was confident he could do it. Dad took over from here, and would accompany CJ with every paper, driving him two hours in rush hour traffic and wait for him while he wrote the exams. By now I realised I couldn’t do this on my own. I frantically memorised scripture, wrote them on the walls and gathered an amazing group of Prayer Warrior Lady Friends to pray with me. 

His first paper was Language Reading and I almost lost it when I got the message he passed on the 86 percentile. I went down on my knees and could only praise the Lord over and over again. In spite all my stress, so much so that I became ill for 24hours on one of the days he wrote, the results came in one by one, with scores in the 96 and 98 percentiles for Science and Maths. The final subject was Social Studies. Though I thought by now I would get the message, the Lord is in control, He is doing a mighty work, it has nothing to do with me, I was more than nervous! 

There are no words to explain the relief, joy and praises when CJ passed Social Studies in the 90th percentile too. It was over and done!  CJ was officially finished with his homeschooling era and a new season was waiting on him! 

The Lord called us to homeschool him 14 years ago. We obediently did it, in total ignorance, full of doubt and fears, so much aware of our incompetence to make a success of it in ourselves. And this is the beauty of it all to me… This was God’s will for CJ’s life. It was the training CJ needed. It didn’t make sense in our human minds and I can now testify that most of the things CJ learned over the years, the Lord taught to him in his sleep - since that was what I prayed all the months I was exhausted from pregnancy or taking care of babies. 

The results of his GED exam too wasn’t out of our effort. CJ literally studied for a month. It was all the Lord’s working -  all that years of homeschooling- because we were walking in His will for CJ’s life. The Lord was our eyes when we could not see for 14 years! He gave us a dream, He directed our paths and He brought it all to pass for His glory. 

The next Sunday CJ celebrated the end of one season and the beginning of another by doing paragliding for the first time. 

As my son took off and glided into air, with the wind behind him, I praised the Lord for what He is going to do in my son’s life. The world was waiting on him, a dangerous world, with mountains and deep blue seas. But with the Holy Spirit as the wind to guide Him and the Lord’s wisdom to direct his choices, He will bring God glory! God already proved He is trustworthy with the future of my son!

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works in us,
to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever."
Eph. 3:20-21

With much love



Maryna Moolman said...

Thanks for sharing your journey with us Linnie. This is a beautiful post. It touched my heart like you will not believe. It also give a lot of encouragement for those of us who still need to do the final years. Much blessings to you and your family.

Kathleen Bosman said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. You can't believe how much I needed to read this today! I am crying with relief because I know God has my children's future in His hands even when I fail. We also considered Cambridge for my oldest but it just didn't fit his learning style and many things wouldn't work with it. We are going to go the GED route but I've had so many doubts. It's still a few years until he graduates but I'm encouraged to trust that God will teach him, even in His sleep.

Mignon said...

What a testimony of faith and God's faithfulness! Thank you for sharing Linnie!

Living and Growing said...

Well done Linnie, Christo and CJ, for your faithful walk, your perseverance and an amazing end result!

Anonymous said...

Love it, thank you Linnie for sharing your story. Encouraged!

Suzanne Hattingh said...

Baie dankie liefste Linne vir die tyd geneem om met ons die reis te deel. Ons is op 'n plek waar ons ook besluit het om met 'n leefstyl van leer voort te gaan en slegs op Abba Vader te wag indien ons enigsins ons kinders formele sertifikate en kwalifikasies moet laat doen. Julle is werklik 'n inspirasie vir ons! CJ, baie geluk en sterkte met die opleiding as vlieƫnier. Ons weet jy gaan sommer baie goed doen!

Zikhona Tefu said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. Its what I needed to hear. Praise God for His faithfulness...

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