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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

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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..

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the Bus

In our short journey with home-schooling we have learnt success does not depend on the curriculum chosen to educate your child. It is a very personal experience. The first term of our home-schooling adventure this year was spent using the Brainline Curriculum for Grade 1 which consisted of endless worksheets. Although this curriculum works perfectly for some, we have found that for a child who has poor writing skills it has proved frustratingly tiresome for both Gaby and myself, as her mum and teacher. We seem to have been rehashing the same old theme of shapes adnauseum since Gaby was 3 years old. Isn’t the learning experience supposed to be exhilarating? (Forgive me, I have an issue with themes..) After much thought, we have decided to tailor-make our daughter’s learning experience, i.e., going back to the basics of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Details to follow…