Our Reasons for Home Education:

Lilypie Kids Birthday tickers

Although he was achieving good results, he wasn't reaching his full potential because his love for learning had been destroyed & hence his grades were steadily declining.

Lilypie Kids Birthday tickers

Completely failed by the system, he hated school, was always tired & homework time was a major frustration for both of us. He was severely frustrated & quickly heading to become yet another ADHD statistic.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Overwhelmed Update…

Here’s my update on my Overwhelmed post on Friday…
Sight Without Vision
I’ve been quite stressed lately  because we have to hand in results and evaluations to Le-Amen next week and getting Jesse to finish his bookwork is harder than dragging a donkey to the water. I've also been frustrated because I'm struggling to find material that will help him restore his love for learning. My big challenge is to fix what the system has so badly damaged. Although I have found some material that may work for Misha, I still have no idea how to go about it for Jesse.
I had a big fat fight with Jesse on Friday, because he just doesn’t want to complete the bookwork for our deadline this week & dad still insists it has to be done. Dad just doesn’t see their hurt the same way I do. He feels we “survived the system” in our days and so should the kids,  although in our days pressure at school wasn’t half as bad as now.
My long heart-to-heart with Jesse the previous week also made me realise I hadn’t noticed the extent of his hatred for school earlier thus made me feel guilty for not removing him from the system sooner. Of course Satan had a field day with making me feel that I had failed him for not seeing through his “seemingly coping” facade at school. Forcing the Le-Amen material just fuelled the fire more and made it all worse instead of releasing the stress as initially intended through home educating. I think the stress & frustration at not finding adequate material was getting a little too much. Feeling much better now though. We had another long heart-to-heart on Friday afternoon after I had cried my heart out & agreed although we cannot change the past we will now work together to find a solution for the future.
I suppose if I’d read the SACHS Blog Carnival # 11 – Philosophies of Homeschooling by Linnie Lues at Back to Ancient Ways, when it came out 2 weeks ago this last outburst could probably have been prevented. This was the first time since the Blog Carnivals started last year that I didn’t have time to read the posts & now I know why I was kept so busy that I didn’t get to it. She wrote: “Shirley at Under and English Sky wrote about the heart behind homeschooling, as God has convicted her, in A Vapour in the Wind, It's Simple... They Belong To Jesus... and Homeschooling for Homeschoolings sake? She has experienced the distraction of too many curriculum choices, too many tried and tested methods. Each one of them distracting her from the '”WHY” they home educate. She took a look into homeschooling that goes beyond method, curriculum or style, rather into their families heart, the true reason why they educate their children at home.”  This paragraph and the linked posts have been confirmation to me to follow my heart and that we were heading in the right direction. True to form, Satan will always try to oppose when we’re planning to do what we feel in our hearts God wants us to do, hence all the distractions for me to read these posts...
Fortunately, Dad has finally agreed to allow unschooling for Jesse until August/September next year when the new American school year starts in order to allow him some time find his interests and to deal with his intense hatred towards schoolwork. Jesse has agreed to then put in his best efforts for Gr. 9 – 12 through Alpha Omega Academy or whatever other hands-on material I God brings on our path by then.
So for now it will be Science (with all the necessary equipment needed to do the experiments), Technology, Barry’s Geography, Woodworking and whatever other hands-on-learning opportunities I can lay my hands on. And of course one of those sets we saw at the expo. We’ll be turning our little kitchen into the science lab where they can experiment and build to their hearts’ content. We’ll also take up the guitar lessons again and I may even get some other kids to join them to make it more fun.
Although I don’t have a set approach for next year, I am now resting in the knowledge that God is taking my boys at their own levels & I need to allow them the time to deschool, find their interests & allow God to do pave the way to restoring their love for learning.
In this House...
I have also been inspired to start formulating our philosophy for home education in the near future. I still have no idea how and when but first of all we will be removing “school” from our vocabulary and replacing it with education. I saw this photo on facebook this weekend and have decided to include it with our philosophy.
So here we go as we take a turn in our home educating journey... watch this space... we’re planning to have loads of FUN education next year... but first we’re looking forward to enjoying a well deserved holiday.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Who would have ever thought I’d take up blogging at this stage of my life. As a student I always hated creative writing & could never pin my thoughts to paper. But these days blogging has become an integral part of my life. It has become my outlet when frustrated & bouncing board for ideas when confused. Because I have so often felt alone in this struggle with my, I decided to share these experiences so other new home schooling moms could benefit from the knowledge & resources I have found during my hours of research.
Although my husband’s known Desiré for many years and I have met her parents and sister many years ago, I only “met” her via hubby’s facebook when we started considering homeschooling last year because of Misha’s struggles at school. She sent the very first curriculum suggestions I checked out for our boys.
Since then her regular positive comments & suggestions on my blog & facebook posts have been a source of motivation to keep me going whenever I felt insecure & doubtful. For that I am truly grateful. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for this nomination, Desiré.smiley-7
The word “Liebster” is a German word which means “dearest”. The Liebster Blog award is given to up and coming blogs with 200 or less followers.
The way this award works is to link back to the nominator, in this case that would be Desiré.
The next thing is to share 5 other inspiring blogs ~ all of whom have less than 200 followers. Leave a comment on their blogs and let them know that they are nominated for this cute award.
THEN... post the award on your blog and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling of friendship shared over the miles!

My five nominees are:

      1. Karen’s Clan
      2. Under an English Sky
      3. Loving Learning
      4. Back to Ancient Ways
      5. Our Homeschool Escapades

Friday, November 25, 2011


imageRight now, I just want to go sit somewhere in a corner to cry my heart out.
Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, failure, stress & frustration have me a little overwhelmed today as we're having to finish exams & mark for evaluations to be handed in to Le-Amen on Tuesday. I wanted to can all of it months ago, but daddy insisted we finish the year with this "boring school at home" material we purchased for this year so he can get a report for 8th grade.
I still cannot help but wonder how I managed to miss my then school-loving, never-wanna-leave here 3rd grader change to totally hating school & anything resembling it in 7th grade. When did it all go so terribly wrong? Did he master the art of "suffering in silence" or was I just too caught up with the stress & frustrations of Misha's obvious school issues that I couldn't see his underlying issues?
I feel such a failure for not realising the extent of the damage school's done to him sooner. Of course I lost my temper today at his blatant refusal to complete the "bookwork" for our deadline next week & that's just adding fuel to the "guilt" fire. How am I going to teach the likes of English, Maths, Science, Social Studies, Accounting etc. to a child that HATES books to this extent.
I've already laid off much off the bookwork & requested him to do just the bare minimum. I've added pc, internet & iPad activities as well as loads of Discovery Channel & Natgeo Wild.
What more can I do to fix the damage caused by the system???


imagebig time!!!

I’m at whit's end. For now I’m just praying to get through the next few days and hope that the school holiday and our plan to allow time for de-schooling next year will help us all feel differently about education by August next year, when we plan to do Alpha Omega Academy with the Switched on Schoolhouse curriculum or what ever other hands-on curriculum I manage to find by then.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Heart & Soul Homeschool Mama

By Gena Suarez

I am sitting in a coffee shop today, working away like a busy bee. Lately I've had so many emails to respond to, I feel like a hamster on a wheel (the emails are never-ending). I need to create at times, too, not just stay buried in "send and receive" all day long. So I thought I'd put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write you a letter.
So . . . what to write? I need a prompt. For now, as I start my "magazine work" day, I've just come across a Facebook message sent to me privately by a homeschooler who had some questions about "balancing it all." She said she has four kids she's trying to homeschool and is wondering how I (with my six kids AND a magazine to run) am managing. How do I do it; how do I keep it all together?
That's Hilarious
After sliding out of my café-style, overstuffed chair laughing maniacally, I cleared my throat and started to type. And here I am. [Chuckle] This is funny. Me, balanced? Me, organized? I don't think so. I mean, I am blessed—Paul is home full-time with me. We both do the magazine and manage the staff and handle the travel and everything that comes with publishing a magazine of this size. But guess who is teaching Sani to read? (Paul) Guess who handles all the house errands and takes care of me? (Paul) Guess who is teaching Levi to drive, helping Paulie fix his motorcycle, and talking about quilting with Julia? (Paul—and yes, he quilts. LOL) Okay, so that aside, I still have a lot on my plate. There is the staff and all that comes with TOS, but there are also (far more importantly) my kids: their hearts, their relationships, their high school credits (only two of our kids are being homeschooled right now; two are graduated and two are babies).
So how do I do it all? Like I said, I don't.
We're Just Slobs . . .
I think I've come to realize after all these years that first and foremost, I want to be a "heart and soul homeschool mama." That's all that really matters. My house is a mess (stop by unannounced and I probably won't answer the door—my living room is a disaster). Take a look at my kitchen; normally you will be hard pressed to find the counters. My couch (what couch—where'd it go?) is overrun by clean laundry waiting (patiently and forever) to be folded and put away. Hey, at least it's clean! My bedroom door stays closed, because, well, never mind. I won't even go there because to describe the clothes behind closet doors, make-up spilled on the counters, and a toilet that looks a little . . . well . . . not as white as it used to, would just be embarrassing. Seriously. My house is pretty messy. For the most part it's really sanitary, though. I have an obsession with "cleaner wipes," as we call them. My kids are constantly wiping down furniture and doorknobs, tables, chairs, and the counters—when we can find them. I love to cook and wash my hands too many times. We're clean. We're just . . . slobs. Epic success!
I'm Not That Smart
So I am not a "house-cleaning super mama." I gave up that dream long ago, like four minutes after I said, "I do." Nor am I a "brainiac homeschool mama.” My kids have gaps, holes, and stops in their education. They did alright; the two who have graduated went on to do a few semesters at college and got straight A's in everything they took, even all the math (yuck). Well, Lukey got ONE B (history). Other than that, they are 4.0 college boys. So something went okay in the homeschooling, I guess. But yeah, there are holes. We didn't dissect a frog—ever. That is just sick and I am not going there. My house is gross enough as it is, and knowing us, someone would lose a liver in the clean laundry and we'd never find that frog. One of my friends ordered a cow's eyeball and it was delivered via MAIL (oh, my, gross). She rolled that puppy right onto her kitchen table and sliced and diced away with her kids. Then they stored the thing in her fridge. Okay. Well, then.
I am not a "brainiac homeschool mama"—sorry, just can't do it. First of all, I'm not a brain like my cow eyeball-wielding friend. I have another friend who is a homeschool mom who also happens to be our lawyer. Her child probably could have graduated when he was 13. She's a constant stream of brainpower, and she imparts it all to her lucky boy, who is almost as smart as she is by now. Crazy. I can't do it. I am simply not equipped. But we did the basics and had loads of conversations and put the time into a bazillion documentaries and traveled around on business, plus read books aloud when we could. We also did loads of reading comprehension. Epic success!
My Hair Is Whacked and I Can't Match My Clothes to Save My Life
I am not a "fashion-ado homeschool mama." I'm chubby! My hair gets brushed (and I am serious) two to three times a week at best. It's frizzy—why would I want to comb it out? Then it would be an afro that would touch the ceiling and put people in danger of being static-shocked. My babies would get lost in it. So keep it tight, leave it alone, slather it with gel if someone is coming over—good enough. I'm like a female version of Ronald McDonald and I am NOT the only person who's told myself that. So, fashion is not really me. I'm not beautiful like some of my homeschool friends who look so well put together. They have gorgeous manes that they probably comb out every day. Their shoes match. And their teeth are straight and white. Makeup? Can you believe some people wear it daily (more maniacal laughter—sorry)? Fashion Gena is just not in existence. Never has been. This homeschool mama cannot even match her necklace to her shoes (although I did try once). My hair is kinda clean and I wear deodorant. Epic success!
Field Trip? You Wanna Go WHERE?
I am not a "field trip homeschool mama." Okay, these mamas are great, but I cannot keep up with them! They have a field trip experience for every other day of the week. Their kids have been to the Grand Canyon (mine have not). Their kids have visited flight museums and experienced Jamestown and all the reenactment festivals for both sides of the Civil War (mine haven't). They can recite the Gettysburg Address and know all the historical/educational landmarks of Philadelphia (mine don't). Busy, busy learning by experiencing. They'd fly to every planet for a field trip if they could. And my hat is off to them! Look at the investment they are pouring into their children! Hands-on learning—can't beat it. Just wish I had time for such a thing (I think). Sounds exhausting and I'm tired even thinking about it. I am not a "field trip homeschool mama" like several of my better friends. But we travel when we can, visit faraway places in books, and get out here and there. Epic success!
What kind of mama am I? I don't have the corner on a clean and lovely home. I am not a brain who can pontificate over my children, pouring set-to-memory knowledge in their craniums (I don't have that much stuff memorized!). I am not that well put together—Mrs. Ronald, remember? (I stopped dyeing my hair red because the resemblance is then even more uncanny and it's disturbing.) And I am not constantly whisking my kids away to the Alps for P.E. or to the Golden Gate Bridge or Crater Lake for geography. I am a "heart and soul mama." I'm here for them when they need me; relationships are first and foremost, and I want them to know the Lord their God with all their heart and soul. I want to get to their hearts and have an impact on what happens with their souls. I want to bare my own heart, and I want us to build on that as our family continuously draws closer to each other and to the Lord.
It's the Lord who reaches the heart and soul, and He uses us moms in many ways to do it. By REGULARLY speaking to their hearts and guarding their souls, we are creating an atmosphere for flourishing growth. Is that a perfect picture? If comparing it to fine art, it may look very abstract or even Impressionistic in style (crazy swirls and wide brushstrokes) and sometimes quite messy, but keep walking (even if you're not as organized as you'd like to be), because it IS a form of fine art, divinely inspired and very much a part of His sovereign plan for our lives. He directs our steps if we follow Him. And He values your children even more than you do. He loves them. He loves you. Keep walking.
Here is a poem I wrote JUST for you!
I am a little chubby,
My house is never scrubby,
Still we eat good grubby,
And the kids make it to the tubby (once in a while).
My hair is sometimes brushed,
And often we feel rushed,
The babies have to be shushed (if we DO make it on the occasional field trip),
But our homeschool spirits are never crushed!
Always someone with a runny nose.
The dish pile in the sink needs a pressure hose.
Look at all my wrinkled clothes!
But the love in our house grows and grows.
My house is the black hole;
Forget the toilet bowl.
In the mornings I look like a troll,
But we have heart and soul!
Sing it with me!
We have heart and soul! [grin]
Did you like my poem? I made it up while listening to weird music the coffee shop is blaring. I think it served to inspire the quirkiness of the poem (if you can call it poetry—I tend to liken it to prattling babble). Anyway, so I was thinking about the lady who asked me how I "do it all" and I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder if a lot of others are feeling bummed that they don't ‘have it all together’ or that they're just not well put together enough as a homeschool mom?” Perish the thought! Here, make a list if you need to. You want to be organized and that's a good thing. Being orderly is right and necessary. But don't beat yourself up if you can't do everything you think should be happening. That's where your list comes in. Make three categories, maybe something like this one of mine, below. We're talking priorities here. What's the most important, then second most, and then wishful thinking (but may be possible by 2019 or something). Okay, so like I said, here's mine. Now you make your own.
Heart & Soul Homeschooling: My List!
A. Highest Priorities—Must Happens (And don't get me wrong—I fail here too.)
  • God's Word and prayer daily in me
  • God's Word and prayer daily in the kids
  • Love my husband—treat him right as head of home and family and make sure he knows he's better than Superman and Batman put together.
  • Relationship with the kids—are there clear channels of communication with each one? No barriers? If any walls up, break those down NOW.
  • Halt everything and do "Talk Time" with anyone following me around staring/frowning with that "need-to-talk" face.
  • Siblings loving each other (or at least I should be threatening that they'd better or else, heh heh)
  • Some kind of food (preferably nutrient-dense) for everyone at some point (preferably three times)
  • Schoolwork—is learning taking place even if at a slow and steady pace?
  • Kids clean and teeth brushed with happy faces at bedtime
  • House is sanitary enough in case health department stops in (they better not)
B. Pretty High Priority but Not Die-Hard
  • All school topics covered within reason
  • Exercise to point where heart rate is up and muscles are being toned
  • Tidy house, even the dishes all washed and couches exposed to daylight
  • Decent meals (3 times) with more than one item on plates
  • Read aloud with the kids, play games, maybe cook together, lengthy conversations throughout the day
  • Sweep something, maybe even mop a floor and wash the tubs
  • Friends who need help/counsel—be there
C. Would Be Nice (Dream On)
  • Take a trip to Greece to see ancient ruins and the Colosseum
  • Fix the house up
  • Clean my bedroom
  • Dress to actually match
  • Brush hair more than three times per week
  • Have a yard sale and get rid of all this JUNK
  • Roller skate
  • Just for fun, let's see if EVERYONE can wear shoes today (even me)
  • Create some sort of diet that makes sense (these things take time/planning)
  • Watch a great film or a play in a real theater with Paul and the kids
  • Go on a date with Paul and ditch the kids
So, yeah, I think I've droned on long enough, and I thank you for staying with me up till this point. I don't have much more to say. In fact, I have nothing left to say. You already know what you've been called to do, and you're walking securely with the One who loves you most. He has your family in His Palm and your kids are doing fine. Are they perfect? Of course not. Whose kids are? Are you always dressed to kill and ready to throw open the doors of your home to any friend who comes knockin'? Three hot meals on the table with nary the nagging word, day after day? Do you bestow upon your husband a perfect love, greeting him each day paradisiacally with fluttering doe eyes and a sparkling smile? Not really? Okay, good; you're normal. So, strive for betterment always (wherever you're at on the journey); work on your list, taking care of the priorities (heart and soul, my friend!); and keep walking. Your Heavenly Father will never leave you. Walk with Him.
Love and hope,
Your heart-and-soul friend,
Paul and Gena Suarez reside in Gray, Tennessee, where they homeschool(ed) their six children: Paul (21), Luke (19), Levi (17), Julia Rachel (14), Susanna Hope (3) and Chloe Abigail (18 months). They enjoy long country drives in the van while listening to books on CD, hanging out with good friends, and staying up late. By the grace of God, the Suarez family publishes The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC. Let Gena know what you thought of this article at her personal email address,
Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Visit The Old Schoolhouse® to view a full-length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left. Email the Publisher at

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you Wendy.
What a surprise it was to be nominated for this award!

Here are the rules for this award:

Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them.
Tell readers 7 things about yourself.
Pass this award to 15 newly discovered bloggers and let them know!

Here goes...7 things about me!

  1. I was born & bred in Bergisch Bladbach, Germany & immigrated to South Africa together with my family in 1975, when I was 5 years old.
  2. I love being married to my wonderful husband, Clive and after 19 years we’re still on honeymoon most of the time.
  3. I love being a home executive and mother to my two wonderful boys and don’t think I’d ever be able to adapt to a secular job again.
  4. I love my new “job” as educator for my boys and although I must admit at times it is daunting, I will do anything in my power to help them restore their love for learning and reach their potential.
  5. I’m a real night-owl and generally only get to bed around 1 or 2am.
  6. I’m a total digi-scrap addict and miss my regular “nightshifts” for scrapping which are now taken up by research and blogging in my pursuits of finding ways to help my sons. Although I miss my “scraptherapy” I don’t regret having to replace that time with equipping my self to help my boys.
  7. I’m very much an introvert and although I hated creative writing at school, I have now found an outlet through blogging and love sharing my experiences in the hope of assisting any other moms going through what I’ve just dealt with.

My 15 versatile bloggers are:

Please visit these blogs, I’ve enjoyed them all and I hope you will enjoy them too!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Just Do the Math!

by David Albert
An excerpt from Have Fun. Learn Stuff. Grow: Homeschooling and the Curriculum of Love
A group of homeschooling mothers gathered together in a circle to discuss unschooling approaches to their children’s education.
“Not possible,” homeschool mom proclaimed glumly, shaking her head.
I had just explained how the Sudbury Valley School - a democratically managed, child-directed learning environment that has been around for almost 40 years - has demonstrated repeatedly that a child could learn math - all of it grades K through 12 - in eight weeks. Average (if there is such a thing), normal (never met one), healthy children, hundreds of them, learned it all, leading to admissions to some of the leading colleges and universities in the nation.
“Must be some kind of trick,” she insisted dolefully, remembering her own dark days in the classroom slaving over the seemingly inscrutable, all joy wrung out as from a wet sponge, then as an elementary school teacher herself, and now finally daily fighting what she was convinced was a losing homeschooling war with her nine-year-old over the required workbook pages.
“Nope, no tricks, no special techniques, magic curriculum, or innovative teaching method,” I informed her. The secret, if there was one, was to wait until the child asked for it, indeed insisted upon it, and had a use for it, even if the use was just college admission.
I directed her to an article on the Sudbury Valley website - “And 'Rithmetic” (from the book, Free at Last). In it, the author and school co-founder Dan Greenberg writes of teaching a group of a dozen boys and girls, ages 9-12, the entire K-6 math portfolio in 20 contact hours. Greenberg, who admits sheepishly that in a past lifetime he was partially responsible in the '60s for the development of the “new math" and now had lived long enough to regret it, tried to dissuade them by suggesting that it would be a lot more fun to go out and play. But no use - they were obstinate and determined. He set only one rule: be on time, 11:00 A.M. sharp, twice a week, for a half an hour. If anyone was five minutes late, class was cancelled. If it happened twice, no more teaching.
Greenberg found an old math primer from 1898, with lots of exercises, and away they went. No shortcuts. They added the long columns and the short columns, the fat ones and skinny ones, “borrowed” and “carried” and memorized the times tables. Long division. Fractions. Decimals. Percentages. Square roots. (Square roots? They stopped teaching that in the '60s, I think, when we were - or least the more “gifted” among us - given sliderules.)
In 20 contact hours, every single one of the kids knew the material cold. No slackers. No failures. No one “left back.” No “math anxiety.” No boredom, frustration, embarrassment. No shame or humiliation. No competition, “achievement, “failure,” or “success.” No prizes. Just 'rithmetic. The students held a party to celebrate.
Walking around in a self-congratulatory haze, Greenberg contacted a friend, a leading elementary math specialist in the public schools, to gloat.
“Not surprising,” mused his friend.
“Why not,” asked Greenberg, having had the wind at least temporarily removed from his sails.
“Because everyone knows,” he replied, verbally stomping on Greenberg's ego, “that the subject matter itself isn't all that hard. What's hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only we way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit everyday for years. Even then it does not work.” (Honesty is refreshing, isn't it?) “Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff - well, 20 hours or so makes sense.”
I could see homeschool mom was becoming more disconsolate by the minute. She could begin to get her head around it, maybe, for the K-6 stuff, but what about all that algebra and geometry and trigonometry and pre-calculus? (whatever that is - when I was in school, it didn't exist - is it some kind of holding pen?) I asked her if she remembered learning much at times when she herself was unmotivated, uncommitted, and uninspired. I felt like apologizing the moment I asked, for it was the wrong question, as all I succeeded in doing was to make her feel uncomfortable.
“Try this,” I suggested, “Let's do the math together. Let's imagine you had one of those kids who, as a teen, was really motivated, ready to spend 30 hours a weeks on getting all the math down. (I used the 30-hour figure because it is about the number of hours per week the “average” high school kid spends in the classroom. I like the metaphorical “spending" as it begs the question “what is being given in return?”) And then, let's compare what might happen if you were to learn the same stuff in school.”
Now studies have shown that in the standard U.S. school day at the average American public school, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes goes into actual instruction of new material. That's right - 75 minutes. This is not as strange as it might initially sound. Consider what happens in a six-hour school day: movement from class-to-class and the required settling in and getting up, attendance-taking, pledge, bureaucratic busywork, lunch, recess, “physical education,” drug-taking (both of the prescribed and illicit variety), sexual harassment. Inside the classroom, review of stuff from the day before, last week, or last year; homework assignments collection and distribution; dealing with “behaviour problems”; classroom organization; tests, including review time for the statewide ones - you get the picture. I'm ignoring the days the student is sick, or the teacher is sick, or the school is sick (lots of school buildings in my state get closed occasionally because of “Sick Building Syndrome” - I would have called schools “sick buildings” by definition, but let's not go there.)
So 75 minutes of new instruction time. But wait! Since instruction is aimed at the "average" kid, 50 percent of the time the student already knows what is being taught, so the actual instruction time from the child's perspective is closer to 40 minutes a day. Now let us imagine that 40 percent of that, or 15 minutes a day, is devoted to math. (But wait again! A good portion of that time while the child is being instructed, she would prefer to be somewhere - anywhere - else!)
Anyhow - do the math: 15 minutes a day, 75 minutes a week, for a 180-day school year comes to 2,700 minutes or 45 hours per school year (of which a portion is in time during which the child wasn't paying attention, or just didn't want to learn - so figure 30 hours a year.) But wait again! Some of that formal math in the early years was being taught at a time when it took twice or three times as long as it would have later. After all, Greenberg had already demonstrated that all of K-6 required only 20 contact hours.
So, do the math. If you figure the actual math time at 30 hours a year for 8 years (accounting for the wasted time in the early years), it totals 240 hours. Lo and behold - if, at age 15 or so, you wanted to learn all the math K-12, weren't inhibited by math anxiety, and were willing to spend 30 hours a week at it, it would take you...8 weeks!
Nothing magic here, except that you might actually learn it.
If you never teach a stitch of math, in a mathematical culture your kids will learn heaps of it anyway. Whether it be from reckoning time/distance/velocity ratios so they can figure out how soon they'll get home from looking at highway signs, to ascertaining how many Twinkies they can get with their allowance (Twinkies? Does that date me?), to helping dad bake the pies or mom replace the oil in the car (how many quarts is that? And why are engines measured in liters???), learning math along the journey is a difficult thing to avoid.
Want a place to start? If your son has a sweet tooth, play “The Cost is Right.” Go to the supermarket, and give him two bucks. Tell him he can buy as much candy as he can manage with $2 (no tax at this stage), but that if the total adds up to more than two smackers, he loses it all. You'll be amazed at how swiftly the two-place, long-list, carrying addition falls into place, and the multiplication, and the borrowing subtraction. If you watch carefully, you'll also discover something really interesting: the “correct” way to add a group of multi-place numbers is from left-to-right, not right-to-left, and anyone who has $2.50 in his pocket and needs to buy a can of cream-style corn ($.88) and a bag of kidney beans ($1.39) knows it. That's why you had to spend all that time on those horrible worksheets, to train you in a method that goes against the grain of all human experience! Got two competitive kids? Really play “The Cost is Right,” and the winner gets an extra dollar for next time.
Have your daughter help you fill up the car with gas (and have her be the lookout for fluctuating prices in the neighbourhood.) Let her make the change, and compute your gas mileage. On a long trip, have her count the number of trucks you pass on the highway (I'm assuming you speed like the rest of us), and figure out how many you pass per hour, or per 100 miles.
Daughter saving her allowance and birthday presents to purchase the poodle? Paste a picture of Mr. Poodle on top of a bar graph and make plotting out progress toward the goal part of the exercise. Get a special poodle-purchase bank account. (In better times, you might even get to explain interest, but currently there isn't likely to be any.)
Petey the Poodle Puppy already arrived? Well, put some graph paper on the wall, and make weighing and measuring part of caring for said canine. (Speaking from experience, I can tell you it works for snakes as well.) Say, every two weeks. Height, length, maybe even girth, too! Think of it as future veterinarian training. Put two graphs on the wall, and measure the "child puppy" as well. (Most children love to see analogies to their own development.) You might decide to do the same with dad, but only if he's on Atkins.
You get the idea. If you still feel your child MUST do the workbook thing, so be it. But remember that whether she succeeds with it or not will be more a function of motivation and inspiration than anything else. Give her a reason and a purpose that becomes her own and she will discover an education truly worthy of the name.
Might take even less than eight weeks.
©David Albert 2002

David H. Albert holds degrees from Williams College, Oxford University, and the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, but says, the best education he ever received he gets from his kids. He writes a regular column—My Word!—for Home Education Magazine. He is also author of the book Original Seeking: Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery (Common Courage Press, 2002) and editor of The Healing Heart: Storytelling to Promote Healthy Individuals, Families, and Communities (New Society, 2002). As founder of New Society Publishers, he was both editor and publisher of John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and more than 100 other titles. He was also a founding member of Co-op America and the National Association of Socially Responsible Businesses. His website is SkylarkSings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homeschool Expo 2011

I joined a friend for another awesome visit to the Homeschool & Educational Expo at London Road Church, Linbro Park, arranged by Sally Victor last weekend.

We spent hours wandering around the stalls and I’ve seen quite a few materials that I might be be able to use for my boys to make their home education journey a little more interesting & fun. I’m hoping some of these will assist me in restoring their love for learning.

I have taken the time to list some of the suppliers websites & contact details below for those who were not able to attend and trust you too will find some useful recourses to help you add some fun to your home education journey.

Educational Toys

imageEducational Playtime offers a variety of educational toys. These are manufactured to high standards to withstand the robust play of lively youngsters. The finishes is durable, washable and “lead free.” I purchased the “World Safari” game for my boys and already they’ve had hours of fun learning about Continents, Oceans, Countries, of the World with the help of 3 category cards – Country, General & Visual Clues. Email Estelle Jurgens or contact +27 (12) 661-1083 or  (84) 593-1632

Abby'sAquariumAdventuresoffers books & craft kits to teach kids about marine life. Email Abby

FischerTechnikoffers educational toys aimed at helping kids understand technology. All construction sets can be ideally combined with one another. The high acceptance by parents, teachers and engineers has made fischertechnik one of the most successful educational aids in schools and universities. Contact Ilona Greeff on +27 (82) 376-0394

logooffers a revolutionary construction sets to fuel creativity & brain development. Contact Sandy Tucker on +27 (82) 483-7925


provides top quality technology resources to primary and high schools. The technology sets have been designed to cover concepts like electricity, gears systems and magnetism through the designing and building of fun models. An exicting new range has been added this year that focuses on green energy, like solar panels, wind and water power and hydro pneuno systems. Contact Jaque Lombard on +27 (82) 928-5953.

studyboost5offers educational games as well as courses in study skills for children from Grade four to high school with a focus on extracting key words and ideas, mind-mapping, memory skills and improving reading comprehension. Email or contact +27 (83) 414-0508.

Text- & Workbooks

Jade-Education4presents the Singapore approach to Maths, Science, English & IT. Email or contact +27 (11) 264 2425

image15is the leading K-12 educational publisher in Singapore and has more than 40 years of experience in educational publishing.

logo_left_06offers a complete classroom solution with their CAPS curriculum compliant courses for Grades 1-3 and Grade 10. Email or contact +27 (21) 532 6000 or check their website for a branch near you.

SmartKids4offers brand-new range of Grade 4 to 6 workbooks that are packed with all the colourful activities you’ve come to expect from Smart-Kids, but they’re older…cooler and smarter! I have so had it with the boring black & white  “worksheet wasteland” type workbooks and have purchased some of these books as they are way more appealing Slimkoppe4and I hope these will help me reduces my struggling learner’s mental-block towards worksheets & workbooks. Email or contact +27 (21) 532-6009.


offers a range of manuals that cover a range of learning areas: English, Afrikaans, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Natural Science, History, Technology, Geography, Art & Culture & Economic Management Science. Email or contact +27 (11) 958 0707


offers a variety of home learning materials to assist learners in gaining a clear understanding of their subjects so that they can master essential skills and excel in their tests and examinations. Range include Boost Maths, Find Out About, Kumon, Smart-Kids, Train Your Brain & X-Kit Study Guides. Email Veronica Napier or contact +27 (11) 347-0809 or +27 (82) 936-2622

SuricatePublishingfor step-by-step full curriculum Maths Workbooks. Email or contact +27 (73) 380 6096



GodIdeas4curriculum is a ‘way,’ a journey, a guide to discover your child’s full potential. An easy, fun, step by step journey toward your child’s destiny. It consists of a Presenters Handbook that guides parents and teachers all the way from lesson 1 to 40. And a Children’s Handbook in colour that is full of fun and interactive activities. Email Naomi / Louis or contact +27 (82) 920 1438


ReadersAreLeaders5offers a fun, interactive computer based reading and language programme in South Africa. Contact +27 (86) 110-1608 for a FREE reading assessment and demonstration at your convenience.

ANDAG5With the Sound Combination Reading Method the learner is taught sound combinations that empowers them to construct words phonetically AND to read them AND to pronounce them correctly. Other methods erroneously teach a child to memorize words and sentences and prevent them from reading unknown words. On our reading method the child is taught to read sounds combined and not to read or sound them singularly, for Japtraplees4example "ca-t" and NOT "c-a-t". Email Heidi Nel or contact  +27 (83) 415 4656.


offers a complete sight-reading program with a Christian theme. Includes 12 colourfully illustrated readers and flashcards, parent/teacher guide, bookmark and award certificate as well as read-along CD. Email Big Thot or contact +27 (83) 791-2804.


Afriphonics3is a teaching tool that has been designed by Early Years educators to provide children with a solid foundation in the understanding of phonics – the association of sounds with letters leading ultimately to writing and reading. The programme follows an ‘African’ theme in that each letter and letter sound is associated with an African animal character. It is a practical, easy to follow method of teaching children (from 3 to 8 years) to identify and recognise letters and letter sounds via a multi-sensory approach that uses concrete experiences in the form of visual clues, auditory signals, tactile experiences and large and small body movements to gain an abstract understanding of the shape and sound of each letter. The structure and design of the materials and the accompanying lesson plans ensure that the Afriphonics programme is aligned with the current principles of child development, brain-based learning and the requirements of the National Curriculum Statement for Grade R. The programme is currently available in English and Afrikaans. Email Susanne van Niekerk or contact +27 (82) 900-3192


Box'nDiceis a creative Maths package for young children. It consists of a variety of manipulatives, a DVD with activities and an electronig parent guide Email Marise Oberholzer.

Foonda-Mat1x-Logo4offers a series of maths games are a hybrid of text book content and computer technology intelligently packaged for endless use by all. Email African Intellect or contact +27 (82) 419-8828

MasterMaths5offers extra maths help for grades 4 to 12. Classes are ‘lessons’ supported by highly trained tutors teaching mathematics. Maths tutoring throughout SA is also available in Afrikaans. Email or contact +27 (21) 851-5660

Earth Science

EducationSupport6is a family orientated education support organization offering educational courses, outings and other educational services to parents and their children. Offering hands on practical work in: Earth Science, Astronomy, Model Making, Basic science, Outings + tours, Taylor made request, Atmospheric science, Working with maps, History, Photography & Family outings. Email Barry Bryant or contact +27 (11) 022-9791 or +27 (82) 331-8194


suppliers of various media relating to the creation of the world from a Biblical perspective. Contact +27 (21) 979-0107 for more info.

Foreign Language

NewEraLanguages4offers a language system designed to teach you as naturally and easily as you learn to speak your own languages. A wide variety of International and African languages are available at affordable prices. Email Alan Devenish or contact +27 (11) 802-8610 or +27 (83) 601-7014

Information Technology (IT)


offers a Primary (grades 1-7) as well as High School Curriculum that will prepare a student for the ICDL. Email or contact +27 (34) 326-4624


is a premier accredited Information and Communication Technology Company for learners of all ages. At Computers 4 Kids provides a unique ECDL Foundation endorsed Integrated ICT and Digital Literacy Online Curriculum, as well as all the backup, support and in-service training to ensure your ICT centre works for you! Their integrated ICT curriculum works on Microsoft, Mac as well as Open Source platforms. Check their website for contact details.


(International Computer Driving Licence) certification programme covers the key concepts of computing and it’s practical applications. Computer Skills for Life. Email or contact +27 (0) 21 671 1070.

Economic Management Science

CashCow5 4 Schools Homeschooling kit can help you teach your children the fundamental principles of double-entry bookkeeping in a way that is easy to understand, memorable and fun way to learn. It is aligned to EMS curriculum for grade 8 & 9 learners. Email Henk or contact +27 (82) 725-2317

FatCat5is a one-day learner intervention training in basic money matters. Email Henk or contact +27 (82) 725-2317

Educational Software

Hero Skillsoffers games are visually stunning, fully narrated, include teaching sections and are divided into levels of difficulty for 3 to 11-year olds. Email Malcolm or contact +27 11 234-5014 or +27 72 289-0098.

LearnthingsAfrica5specialises in the licensing and production of interactive learning materials and training related to the effective usage of these materials in South Africa and several African countries.Teaching Aids. Eamail Susanna Ackerman or contact +27 (11) 719 4100.

Cami6offers programs for Science ~ Physics (ages 5 –18), Maths (ages 5-18), Reader (ages 5 –18), Perceptual (ages 4 – 10) & Literacy (ages 6 – 11). Email CAMI Education or contact +27 (11) 883-8885.

Teaching Aids

Flash & Learnis a supplier of Top Quality Educational Aids to various schools, bookstores, toy shops and stationers in South Africa since 2001. Email or contact +27 (51) 522-6344

PromoEmailNov2011WinLaundryStamp5produces a wide range of products for use in schools, homes and businesses. We manufacture a wide variety of Reward Stickers, Personalised Labels, Iron On Labels, Wall Decals, Educational Magnets, Photo Magnets, Fridge Magnets, Magnetic Invitations, Art & Photo Canvas, Advertising Banners, Car Magnets & Magnetic Business Cards. Jitterbugs also provides a fully Customised Service, so if you do not find exactly what you are looking for email Jessica du Plessis or contact +27 (84) 374-3925.

experilab logo1supplies innovative science packs in chemistry, physics & electronics, laboratory equipment, rocketry and science toys as well as technology packs and components for projects. They also offer services that include Science Birthday Parties, Assistance with school projects & Scout-group get togethers. Email or contact +27 (83) 269-1773

Curriculum Providers

Nukleus10Nukleus Onderwys offers Afrikaans distance learning curriculum. Email Nukleus or contact +27 (44) 873-0346.


LearningChanneloffers a comprehensive range of Grades 7 – 12 courses that cover all the Learning Outcomes, Assessment Standards, knowledge, key concepts and skills as reflected in the National Curriculum Statement — everything you need to make a success of your world! Email or contact +27 (11) 639-0170

The Learning Channel programmes consist of three integrated components:

  • Lessons to watch on DVD.
  • A learner workbook that includes:
    • Learner-friendly style and text;
    • Real-life problems in different contexts;
    • Varied texts, for example, tables, graphs, charts; and
    • Regular assessment tools.

BIDCoffer students distance quality education of the highest international standards. The Cambridge philosophy of education provides courses which are demanding, challenging and thoroughly prepare students for tertiary study and the demands of modern life. Qualifications through Cambridge University International Examinations in Foundation, IGCSE (O Levels) and AS Levels (Advanced Subsidiary Levels) are accepted in over 160 countries. Email or contact +27 11 706 7199

Books & Software


offers a wide range of books & software.



allows you to order textbooks online & have them delivered directly to you. They also offer educational toys. Second hand books can also be bought and sold through Galileo Books.



IndigoLearning11strives to bring the best of neuroscience research together with good learning practices. Their programmes develop the essential skills of language, reading and learning. Email Yvonne Munshi or contact +27 (82) 312-7981


is the only South African website that offers a comprehensive service dedicated to left-hand learners, their parents and educators!! Providers of left-hand products and workshops. Email Tracy or contact +27 (83) 417-3316


Homeschoolers Market Day

Please note that a Homeschoolers Market Day has been scheduled for 3rd March 2012 from 09h00-15h00 at the London Road Church. Entrance is free and stalls may be booked at R50 each. Please email Sally Victor for more information or bookings.

Homeschool & Educational Expo 2012

Next year’s expo has been scheduled for 3rd November 2012 from 09h00-15h00 at the London Road Church. Please email Sally Victor for more information or bookings.

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