Our Curriculum for 2015 – Grade 3

Dear Friends,

I apologize for not posting earlier this year.  We faced a few personal challenges in our family which has required a restructuring of our scheduled home-school calendar. Home-schooling is indeed a blessing in such times!

In February, we moved to the Fourways area of Johannesburg.  We now live amidst a backdrop of heavy traffic and ongoing roadworks.. the bliss of city life!  Even our faithful school companion, Prince is suffering from the stress here. He has developed bald spots on his otherwise sleek, immaculate and shiny coat.  When we gather in our sunny school room, however, the familiar routine of learning brings a sense of ease and calm into our days.  This year, we are attempting the Cambridge Primary core subjects of Mathematics, English and Science (Stage 3).  Our curriculum also includes Afrikaans, French, Art, Classical Music and Baking.

SUBJECTS Summary List for Grade 3 2015 - School of Gaby

In our home-school journey, it has become increasingly clear that I ( as the Facilitator ) am learning alongside my daughter. It may be more appropriate to change the name of our home-school to ‘School with Gaby”‘ versus ”School of Gaby”.

Details of the resources we are using will be posted shortly.

Until then, bye for now!


Our Curriculum for 2014 – Grade 2

Our year started badly… Due to our precarious financial position (and, in a moment of weakness) I decided to put Gaby back into the government school and start job hunting in earnest. After spending a ridiculous amount of money on school clothes and stationery, our little girl went back to school. I, obviously, was not thinking clearly, as after just one day of school, my child came home emotionally and mentally drained from the drama. For reasons I cannot discuss on this forum, we thought it best not to send her back the next day. Shortly thereafter, we resumed homeschooling… despite the economic pressures.

Fortunately, I had already purchased a few textbooks for Grade 2 at the end of 2013 and we were good to go.  A friend had recommended the schedule and Amazon bookstore of Jennifer Westbrooke (Westbrooke Curriculum) and I decided to try it out. (NB: although Jennifer is the same faith as ourselves anyone can benefit from her textbook suggestions).

2nd Grade Package

2nd Grade Package

Incidentally, I had found it much cheaper to order from her bookstore in America (despite the negatives of the exchange rate and cost of postage) than sourcing through a curriculum provider in South Africa.

Here are the subjects and resources we used for the year:

BIBLE STORY: Learn from the Great Teacher – a great book discussing the lessons Jesus taught whilst on earth for adults and children alike.

PHONICS: MCP Phonics Level B Workbook. This book was a delight to use. Gaby’s spelling, grammar and handwriting improved daily as worked through it. (It can be found here: Grade 2 Textbooks from Westbrooke Curriculum).

SPELLING: The 2nd Grade Spelling List found at: Spelling-Words-Well .

GRAMMAR: Scott Foresman Online Grammar and Writing Handbook Grade 2 .

HANDWRITING: Universal Publishing – Manuscript Handwriting – Manuscript Enrichment Book (see: Westbrooke Curriculum – Grade 2)

READING: This was the year Gaby jumped grades in her love of reading. This was the year she discovered the Nancy Drew series of books by Carolyn Keene at our local library. (See: Who was Carolyn Keene? for more information on the Nancy Drew books.)

MATHEMATICS: Gaby’s math’s skills were still a little weak so I decided to strengthen her Grade 1 knowledge by using Math Mammoth Grade 1 (A+B) – South African version. (see: Math Mammoth).

SCIENCE: The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Faber – a yesteryear classic. Online Version /  PDF version /  Audio version . We also used the subject matter suggested in What Your Second Grader Needs to Know by Ed Hirsch (can be found in South Africa here: Takealot).

HISTORY / GEOGRAPHY: As suggested in What Your Second Grader Needs to Know by Ed Hirsch and supplemented with books from the library and Youtube.

Although 2014 was plagued with sickness and stresses unrelated to homeschooling, we managed to have a pleasant and productive school year. I am glad we did not give up!


Cupcakes for Leap Day for Frogs – 28/02/2014


Maths 2015 – Outline

As mentioned in the first post, Cambridge Primary Math Textbooks are not for home-school use. They are meant for Private Schools endorsed by The University of Cambridge to teach their curriculum and to assist students to prepare for the prestigious Cambridge qualifications… We are simply using their system to ensure that Gabs gets a high quality standard of education.  We will attempt to cover the following outline of this course this year in our homeschool:


  • Number and the number system
  • Calculation – Mental strategies, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division


  • Shapes and geometric reasoning
  • Position and movement


  • Money
  • Length, mass and capacity
  • Time

Handling data

  • Organizing, categorizing and representing data

Problem solving

  • Using techniques and skills in solving mathematical problems

For ease of use we are working through the work as suggested.


Maths 2015

Math is a difficult subject in our home-school.. as a result I am constantly looking for easier ways to teach it to my little home-schooler. This year, after much encouragement from my husband to tackle Cambridge Primary Mathematics for Grade 3 (SA) or Year 3 (UK). Here are our initial impressions…

Firstly, do not panic when you open the Teacher’s Resource Guide. I must stress, there is no way around it… you need to use this guide.. and advance preparation is absolutely non-negotiable. I will admit, in comparison to other programs, this one really requires dedication and hard work by the parent! I have found it is less stressful and far easier to prepare the week’s lessons the weekend before instead of hastily doing it the night before (or the wee hours of the morning before school starts for the day).

That having been said, my daughter loves it!  There are games on a nearly daily basis to help understand difficult mathematical concepts. We actually have a few laughs during our maths lesson (gasp)…

The textbooks include a Teacher’s Resource Guide, a Learner’s Book and a Games Book (with a CD to print out all the games). I have also taken out an online platinum subscription with Twinkl for powerpoint presentations and additional support, which adds even more fun to the subject..

To be continued…


My thoughts on homeschooling – one year into our journey…

Our journey has not been one that I anticipated but it certainly has been a worthwhile one thus far.  Homeschooling has truly been an enriching experience for our family.  We are more aware of the natural world around us and a daily ‘read-aloud’ by Mum is now the norm. We have become more selective in our choice of reading material.  We are simply embracing the joy of learning. Gaby’s self esteem has grown, and she is continuing to improve in her handwriting and maths skills.  I have found that cultivating patience in myself goes a long way in motivating a child to try harder.  As in most things in life, this is a work in progress.

I have discovered the web provides an unending source of encouragement from other home school moms, notably from the USA. For example, there is http://www.newbeehomeschooler.com/ , a site run by Tina Robertson and her friend, Kelly Williams; two ladies from Houston, Texas. They run workshops to help new homeschoolers avoid common pitfalls and help make their homeschooling experience a successful one. Their workshops are also available online for international homeschoolers. I highly recommend this site to any new homeschool mum or dad. Their advice is helpful whether you live in America or South Africa.

When we started homeschooling, the choice of curriculum was very important to me as I wanted to give my daughter a broader education than that offered by the schooling system. I spent many hours researching curriculum. What is curriculum though?  Someone else’s idea of textbooks to use to educate your child, perhaps? However, textbooks are necessary although sourcing the ideal books can be a challenge. Advice from other home school moms or teachers can help.. mostly, it is a matter of trial and error, I guess. What is important is that your child meets the criteria for their grade level.. here again, there is expert advice on hand.. which brings up the subject of ‘scope and sequence’.  As a South African home school mum, it is important for some flavour of Africa to appear in our curriculum. This challenge can be tricky but it doesn’t have to. Lapbooking, is an innovative method of teaching almost anything.. lapbooking is a bit like scrapbooking except it is a way of reinforcing learning new concepts to your children. Another important aspect we have found is that regular assessment of your child’s work is essential, in order to improve on weak areas.

In 2013, homeschooling was a little nerve-racking for me, but having tried out different methods, I feel far more confident this year.  My new year’s resolution is to ‘try’ and blog more regularly about our activities (at least once a month).. here’s hoping..

Keep smiling and ‘bye’ for now..

Gaby baking scones

Gaby baking scones


Here we go..

I finally think we are getting somewhere. I have read that the first year of homeschooling is difficult, and have experienced it, yet, I have also found that it can also be the most rewarding experience of educating your child. The latest buzzword is “a customizable education” following on international trends. My husband and I are trying to provide the best of “what there is out there” for our daughter. So, after spending endless hours trolling on various home-school sites gleaning valuable tips on how to customize Gaby’s home school, I am proud to announce that we have decided to try the following: Time4Learning for most of her subjects, a daily Bible Story, Penmanship and Reading. We have been testing out Time4Learning this past month and find it not only fun but academic. Time 4 Learning is an easy way to break into the world of homeschooling. It is entirely web based so there is no software to download or additional textbooks to purchase. It is enjoyable and provides Grade 1 Language Arts (for those of us in South Africa: Literacy or English), Math, Science and Social Studies according to State Curriculum guidelines in the USA. Subjects are organized into chapters composed of interactive lessons, printable worksheets, quizzes and tests. The student is guided through the activities at his/her own pace by an automated system. Students also get access to an online playground (controlled by parents) which motivates them to finish their lessons. Although I have to monitor Gaby and be close by to answer questions, this package has made my life much easier as a Home-school Mum. There is a separate Parent Login to access printable lesson plans, teaching tools and a detailed reporting of the marks scored by the Student. If you would like to take a look, here is the link: http://www.time4learning.com/#.UZdPGzLiPyA.email

Our daily Bible Story is one that we have always used in our family. We are happy to now be able to choose the mode of religious instruction for our child.

We have also included Penmanship in order to help Gaby write correctly. We use the “Happy Handwriter” program developed by Bunty McDougall, an occupational therapist who has worked in the field of learning difficulties for the last 25 years. She is also qualified in Sensory Integration (SI) and Neuro-developmental Therapy (NDT). She has been most helpful to us in a personal capacity and I would strongly recommend her program to preschoolers who have handwriting difficulties. We have only started this year with her program, but wish we had done so sooner. Her website is: http://thehappyhandwriter.co.za . We also use Copywork as a tool for handwriting practice. Gaby enjoys this as she can read the story afterwards.

Another fabulous program that we use is Progressive Phonics.  This site provides free readers and teaches the phonetic language to children. Their website is: http://progressivephonics.com/

Updates to follow..