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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Gift of Boredom

by Carol Barnier
A 10-year-old boy takes a mental survey of his “electronic entertainment” options in a matter of seconds. Uninterested, he snaps the power button to “off” and tosses the gadget onto the couch with an exasperated sigh. He leans forward and flips open a magazine on the coffee table in front of him. No good. Another sigh. He rises and looks out the window at his sled that is leaning against the tree and half-buried in snow. “Too much work,” he thinks.
As he saunters through the kitchen, he grabs a pretzel and moves past the cupboard where the family keeps all the board games. So yesterday. Ever since the computer had gone on the fritz earlier in the morning, this child had become a never-ending stream of sighs.
Wait for it. You knew it was only a matter of time.
“Mo-om . . .”
He finally catches up with you in the laundry room. He schlumphs himself across the washing machine. “Mom . . . ,” (here it comes!) “I’m bored.”
Boom. There it is. Those dreaded words: the I’m-bored declaration signifying that your child’s brain is losing power, slowly fading, and is in immediate need of a quick injection of mental stimulation. When that happens, what does he do? He turns to you. Why? Because you’re the mom. You have ideas. You have solutions. You have an inexhaustible supply of interesting possibilities to save this child from a fate of a vanilla ice cream day in a world of fudge ripple possibilities.
Don’t get me wrong. Your child seeking mental stimulation is not a bad thing. I’d even argue that it’s good. A mind at rest . . . frankly, should be asleep. So I agree with him. If he’s awake, something interesting should be going on in those brain cells. No argument there. But here’s the problem. Once a child makes that fearsome pronouncement, it seems to set off alarms in us: “Oh, no! Not the dreaded brain boredom. Whatever shall we do?” And we leap into action, coming up with a litany of possibilities to stem the tide of the rising boredom.
Many of us have bought into the relatively recent and trendy lie that good parenting involves providing an unending stream of interesting activities for our children: museums, craft projects, science experiments, music lessons. These are all good things, and I won’t tell you that you should not include such activities in your child’s life. But there’s another very important activity that you should regularly make sure your child is blessed to experience: boredom.
You heard me. There’s a wonderful thing that happens to a child when he is permitted a large window of unplanned time. First, he becomes bored, which he isn’t going to see as wonderful at all. Next, he will most likely whine, which you won’t see as wonderful at all. But then, after some time passes, if you let the boredom really take hold, the most amazing thing happens: his brain kicks into gear.
You can trust this next universal force: he will not permit himself to be bored forever. He eventually begins to utilize a weak and seldom worked muscle: his imagination. He creates his own interesting activity. Suddenly he’s making machines and devising situations and creating new games by using the power of his own mind and hands. That is . . . he will if you don’t jump in and provide them with a mom-created activity.
If you feel compelled to step up and hand him something to do without letting him create his own interesting activity, you rob him of several things:
• The power of knowing that he need never, ever, ever be bored. It is not something that happens to him. Rather, it is something that he allows. And just as easily, he has the power to stop it.
• You make him a passive consumer. If he believes that interesting things happen only when other people make them happen, he will never be a do-er, leader, shaker, and mover. Passive is the stuff of followers.
• You take away the extraordinary delight than can be found only in the world of imaginary play.
Before the days of TV, boredom used to be a natural phenomenon. Two hundred years ago, when a child’s homework was done, chores were finished, and other family members were busy, what could he do? He learned to tap into his brain’s diversionary ability early and often. But today, the flip of a simple switch can spoon-feed him an endless supply of diversions that, while interesting, are nonetheless passive and completely dependent on someone else’s imagination.
When I began to realize we had a problem, I would make lofty pronouncements. If my child told me he was bored, I’d loudly proclaim: “A bored person is actually an indication of a boring person, and I did not give birth to any boring people. So shoo. Go be interesting.”
But it wouldn’t be long before the complaining child reluctantly selected a computer game, so I developed a new strategy. If my child uttered the words “I’m bored,” I would instantly declare a BOREDOM DAY. That meant NO computer, NO television, NO electronics of any kind. Let the whining begin. And begin it did. But I stuck to my guns. I wouldn’t allow any electronic injection of someone else’s creativity, and I wouldn’t play the “Here’s-an-idea-game” where I would rattle off activity after activity only to have a sullen child reject them one by one until I was exhausted.
Nope. I just let him wallow. And then . . . it would happen. His own boredom would eventually propel him toward something mildly interesting, then adequately intriguing, then suddenly compelling and fascinating.
What are some things my kids have done when immense boredom gave way to bursts of creativity?
  • Created their own runes-looking type language
  • Learned Elvish (You have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to care or even understand this one.)
  • Created a medieval village with blocks and boxes (complete with stables, blacksmith, prison, convent and gong farmer)
  • Created a cause-and-effect machine that took up the entire bedroom (a marble starts at the beginning and as it proceeds through the contraption, it then taps something, which makes something else move, which taps the first of a set of dominoes, which fall, the last of which makes something else move, etc.)
  • Dug up hundreds of worms to add to my garden
  • Using all the stuffed animals in the house, created an animal rescue center in the basement, complete with triage area, surgical room, and training grounds
  • Wrote a small book
  • Composed a song on the piano
  • Made rubber band guns and created a target range
  • Cooked up his own original dish
  • You may not be brave enough to go cold turkey like this and remove all electronics, but how about taking some baby steps? Give your child a heads up about what’s coming. Let him know that there are now repercussions to uttering the words “I’m bored.”
  • If he forgets and lets the phrase slip, tell him . . .
  • You will find some important cleaning task that will occupy his time while his brain finds something better to do. (Stick to your plan. He must complete the chore before he is permitted the luxury of going off on his own and being interesting.)
  • You will provide something for him to do, but the deal is he must do it—none of this providing a long list of things he yawns about and dismisses.
  • That you’re not really ready to do a whole non-electronic day, but you’ll be happy to have him go an hour or two with no technology-inspired busyness.
We need to let go of the idea that boredom is to be feared. On the contrary, we should seek it out, even orchestrate it if necessary. You could even just declare a boredom day out of the blue. (Feel the parental power.)
Just as you would put together an activity that would use and develop their muscles, so you should also put together activities that will use and develop their imaginations. And amazingly, one of the best vehicles with which to deliver this gift of imaginative play rides in on the wings of an unlikely candidate: utter and profound boredom.
Carol Barnier, author of three books, is a popular conference speaker who is known for mixing serious topics with equally serious humor. Learn more at or
Copyright, 2012. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, January 2012. Read this digital, interactive magazine free by visiting or read on your Kindle Fire or Apple and Android devices by downloading the free TOS apps.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cultural Exchange

2012_0418_164158I signed up for the Cultural Exchange at the Little Red Farm this year. The aim of this exchange is sharing information about the country you reside in with other families in your allocated group so they can get the feel for the culture of that country. This is achieved by sending a package to the family (usually addressed to the child or children) with bits and pieces that you have chosen to give a good overview of what it is like to live there.

We have received our first parcel today from Albin & Edwin all the way from Sweden & what a nice surprise it was. Now this is a much more interesting way of learning geography than how I remember learning from our school days.

The parcel contained a variety of small items teaching us more about Sweden & it’s people as can be seen in the photo album:
  • Small & bigger Swedish Flags
  • Pippi longstocking Colour sheets
  • Pippi Longstocking Stickers
  • Bamse and his Friends (Skalman the Turtle and Lille Skutt a very scared little Rabbit) Plasters
  • A small copy of a painting showing Stockholms Old Town made by their father
  • Balloons
  • Candy “Sweden’s most sold car” ~ These were a hit with the boys & Misha just wanted me to get more…
  • A Swedish cheese cutter ~ apparently these are a necessity of life for the Swedes
  • Easter Ornaments ~ Sadly the egg got a little dented in the mail but Misha just loved the little chick.
  • An Easter card
  • A teabag with a member of the Swedish royal family on
  • A postcard over Stockholm

Of course it also included a letter addressed to the boys with some interesting facts about Sweden, it’s people and describing what it is like to live there.
Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (1)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (2)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (3)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (4)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (5)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (6)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (7)Sweden Cultural Exchange Letter (8)
Thank you Albin & Edwin for a wonderful learning experience for Geography.

Our parcels are still in the making & I’m aiming to have them completed when we get back from our 1 week holiday in Cape Town on the 28th April & sent out by the middle/end of May.

Android Apps for Home Education

With me having recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy Tab & a Samsung Galaxy Note, we’ve discovered many of the iPad Apps are also available for Android. The nicest thing is that many iPad Apps that are only available for the US Store are available at the SA Android store too.

In due time I’ll update this page to add all the apps that we use for home education.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Careful Study Finds Homeschool Advantage

by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
Maybe just rich people homeschool. Or, as storyteller Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show fame might imply: “Maybe homeschooling is the realm, simply by nature’s design, where ‘all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”1 And perhaps this is why their children consistently score above average in readin’, ’ritin’, and ’rithmetic. (Oh, and science and social studies.) This is one hypothesis the negative critics of home-based education have that is worth considering.
Multiple studies over thirty years have consistently found positive things associated with homeschooling. Some critics—both of the research and of home-based education—claim, however, that almost no research tells us anything significant about the academic achievement of the home educated.2
One of the most recent studies on home education, by academics Sandra Martin-Chang, Odette Gould, and Reanne Meuse, however, supports the hypothesis that at least a certain form of home-based education causes higher academic achievement than does public schooling.3 Their research, titled “The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Students,” is worth a close look.
Martin-Chang and her colleagues considered some of the limitations on research to date and worked for a design with more built-in controls. For example, they chose solely home-educated and solely public-schooled students, and matched homeschool and public school students on variables such as geographical area in which they lived, did fresh achievement testing of both groups, and found that all but one of the mothers were “married or living in committed relationships.” In other words, the researchers tried to make sure that the children’s families were very similar on variables that are typically significantly related to academic achievement. Some of these are parental education level, household income, and marital status of parents.
Although the sample sizes involved probably appear small to a lay audience—37 homeschool and 37 public school students of ages 5 to 10—it should be kept in mind that having a “large” sample size is not necessarily more important than carefully controlling for certain variables. For example, the researchers statistically adjusted test scores for the mothers’ educational attainment and household income, even though “mothers’ education and median income were slightly higher for the public school group” (p. 6). In a sense, they used a matched-pair design and were exploring for causal relationships.
Once into the study, the researchers found that “structured” and “unstructured” homeschoolers—regarding how the parents delivered curriculum and education in general to their children—were two distinct groups. The authors focused their analysis on comparing students from structured homeschool settings with public school students.
The children who received structured homeschooling were superior to the children enrolled in public school across all seven subtests (p. 5). The seven subtests were these: Letter-Word, Comprehension, Word Attack, Science, Social Science, Humanities, and Calculation. Further, the researchers reported the following:
To gain a broad perspective of the level of standardized achievement in each group, we conducted a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) that included the scores from all seven Woodcock-Johnson subtests. . . . Thus, all seven subtests were used as dependent variables, and schooling group (public school and structured homeschool) was the independent variable. . . . all the variables showed a medium or strong effect. . . . In conclusion, when comparing the test scores of the children attending public school and children receiving structured homeschooling, it becomes clear that the latter group has higher scores across a variety of academic areas. Moreover, there is no evidence that this difference is simply due to the family’s income or the mother’s educational attainment. (p. 5)
The researchers reported a very small sample size for the unstructured homeschool-family students. Based on this, they wrote that “. . . our exploratory analyses suggest that the unstructured homeschooled children generally score below their expected grade level on the standardized test, and that even with this small sample, performance differences are relatively substantial” (pp. 5–6).
One should keep in mind, however, that the sole measure of learning in this study is standardized tests and the students are rather young. The researchers wisely hypothetically wondered “. . . whether the children receiving unstructured homeschooling would eventually catch up, or even surpass, their peers given ample time” (p. 7).
Martin-Chang and her colleagues concluded that the “. . . evidence presented here is in line with the assumption that homeschooling offers benefits over and above those experienced in public school” (p. 6).
It will be fascinating to see whether future research that incorporates more careful controls as did these researchers continues to find an academic homeschool advantage. Are home-educated children doing well simply because only strong women, good-looking men, and above-average children choose to homeschool or because there is an advantage to home-based education that causes good effects?
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., is president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization. Dr. Ray is internationally known for his research on homeschooling, and he often serves as an expert witness in courts, testifies to legislatures, and is often interviewed by the media. Brian is married to Betsy and they have eight children and four grandchildren. The Ray family lives on a small farm in western Oregon. Please feel free to send your questions about research related to home-based education and raising children to
1. Retrieved October 31, 2011, from
2. Ray, Brian D. (2010, February 3). Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A nationwide study. Academic Leadership Journal, 8(1). Retrieved February 10, 2010 from
3. Martin-Chang, Sandra; Gould, Odette N.; Meuse, Reanne E. (2011, May 30). The impact of schooling on academic achievement: Evidence from homeschooled and traditionally schooled students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, pp. 1–8.
Copyright, 2012. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, January 2012. Read this digital, interactive magazine free by visiting: or read on your Kindle Fire or Apple and Android devices by downloading the free TOS apps.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter

This was another fairly unproductive week. This time Jesse was away for a few days with a friend and with Easter weekend coming up we really didn’t feel like working all that hard. The kids had loads of fun at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve on Tuesday.
On Wednesday Misha helped dish up supper.
We did manage some Reading Eggs & Read, Write, Type lessons.
On Thursday evening however, Misha suddenly decided he wanted to do some Maths with the Math dice and much to my surprise he insisted he needed to write the answers into his journal. Afterwards still spent a few minutes making up stories with his Story Cubes.
This morning I caught Misha building with their new Fishertechnic technology set.
With that, we’re wishing you all a very blessed Easter / Passover weekend. Have a restful break.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve

Today we visited the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve together with the Jedi Knights Home Schoolers. I’ve had to squeeze a few more kids into my car than what we have seats, but the little ones were quite happy to sit in the boot for the trip. Misha’s always wanting to sit in the boot & this was just the opportunity he’s been waiting for.

We met at Wondercaves for a group tour. This tour lasted about 45 minutes but I must admit it seemed like the caves had grown since last time we went there a few years ago. The stairs to the entrance are quite steep and then you go further down into the cave with a lift. It’s dark, hot & humid down there and some of the little ones weren’t all too happy about that. We learnt about stalagmites & stalactites. We also learnt how limestone was harvested in the dark caves many years ago. Of course we had to go back out the way we came and those many stairs proved to be worth a serious gym workout.
Rhino & Lion Nature ReserveAfter the wondercaves we headed back to the picnic area. However the kids got stuck at the Animal Crèche. They thoroughly enjoyed their time playing with the tiger cubs, the lion cubs as well as the cheetah. Misha was quite upset that he wasn’t allowed into the Cheetah cage due to his size. He was totally disgusted that the cheetah would see him as food & decided that he no longer considered Cheetahs his favourite animal.Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve Of course the kids had so much fun at the crèche, we walked around there for what felt like forever.
After the Animal Crèche, we stopped at the picnic area for some hot dogs, chips & juice before taking a drive through the reserve trying to see some lions, cheetahs & other animals. Of course we drove through the whole of the lion & cheetah encampments not finding a single animal. Only on our way back to the exit did we finally find 3 lions lazing around near a tree.
Rhino & Lion Nature ReserveAfter a very eventful and tiring day we headed back home to drop Jacques & Elizabé just on time for their next appointment. The rest of the kids came home with us for some more playtime & were fetched later.Rhino & Lion Nature ReserveRhino & Lion Nature Reserve