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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 2012 SACHS Blog ~ Changing Curriculum

curriculum_000_thumb1We’re nearing the end of this year and it’s Carnival time again. This month we’re focusing on changing curriculum in order to find the right fit for each student.

Definition of Curriculum according to Wikipedia: “In formal education, a curriculum (kəˈrɪkjʉləm/; plural: curricula /kəˈrɪkjʉlə/ or curriculums) is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. A curriculum may also refer to a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfil in order to pass a certain level of education. For example, an elementary school might discuss how its curriculum, or its entire sum of lessons and teachings, is designed to improve national testing scores or help students learn the basics. An individual teacher might also refer to his or her curriculum, meaning all the subjects that will be taught during a school year.”

All children have different learning styles resulting that curricula purchased may not work for all the children in a particular family. Many of us have found fitting curricula through trial and error. With this post we'll be looking at how other families have dealt with their non-fitting curricula and adapted or changed it to fit their students.

Finding the right curriculum fit for our boys has probably been the greatest challenge I’ve faced since taking up home education and believe me, at times it seemed hopeless and I have doubted the wisdom of bringing the boys home from school.

With Jesse already starting high school we felt it was important for him to do a formal curriculum that would also supply him with an official report, so we started them up with Le Amen Education Centre for an IEB matric. Their primary school material is worksheet based and not at all suitable for our kinaesthetic / visual spatial learner. They’re colourless and very mundane. Misha disliked them with a passion and was extremely happy when I allowed him to cut them up instead to add them to his lapbooks. We also found the high school material was not homeschool / self study friendly and fulfilling their requirements very strenuous and seemed at times to be worse than those experienced at private school. This turned out to be a “school at home” scenario that didn’t work well for my boys or myself. By the end of the second term I was already heading for burnout and except for enjoying the freedoms of being at home, the boys hated the “school” part. In fact, Jesse referred to his situation as having been taken out of “jail”, just to be put straight back into jail using the Le Amen. To top it all their service was poor, parent support sadly lacking and their final reports didn’t correspond with the results I had calculated & handed in.

We had taken the kids out of private school in order to alleviate the stress, but instead we found ourselves way more stressed out with the new requirements than before homeschooling… Half way through last year I realised this setup wasn’t working for us but dad insisted they complete the year and I had no idea where to go from here. Dad wanted us to aim at going the Cambridge route but after attending the Cambridge talk at Dainfern College with Jesse last year, I just realised that although Jesse was academically capable, this would be another frustrating “school at home” scenario for us.

I set out searching for curricula that would suit my boys and stumbled on a book on learning styles that gave me loads of insight as to why school wasn’t working for them and why the traditional “school at home” approach did more harm than good in our homeschool environment.

If They Don’t Learn the Way You Teach, Teach the Way They Learn
~ Jacquie McTaggart

This year, I eventually decided to ditch all the school books and to rather unschool the boys until I found a curricula that would work for them. We focused on field trips, many of those and alternative fun ways to help restore their love for learning. I allowed the boys to deschool completely, which meant NO SCHOOL for a few months… I focused on educating myself in order to find material that would work for the boys.

Front CoverDuring this time I’ve read a number of books with some very valuable information, much of which I’ve started to apply to our learning environment. I learnt how “play” shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul. In order to maintain a happy, balanced lifestyle, children as well as adults need to continually make time for playful activities in their lives whether it be riding a horse, reading a book or just play with their children or pets. Without these activities we lose our joy and life becomes a meaningless chore.Front Cover I decided to allow the kids the time to play and have seen some wonderful results.

“Play is the highest form of research” ~ Albert Einstein

I have also discovered more about learning styles and how that affects our ability to learn and retain new information. I gained a new understanding as to why my boys and I hated school so much and how the system failed us. As a matter of fact neither of our learning styles were catered for, although Jesse and I learnt to cope with our environment and still obtain good scores. With Misha being a kinaesthetic, visual-spatial learner, this however was not possible so he started to mimic in class in order to hide his inability to cope. He was becoming more and more fidgety and frustrated. His teacher was already cautioning us to medicate him for concentration and had we not removed him when we did, he would have most definitely been branded ADHD by now. The knowledge gained from this book has helped me understand myself and the boys better. I have learnt that taking their learning styles dispositions, talents, modalities and interests into account is a vital requirement to finding the correct curriculum fit for them.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results” ~ Albert Einstein

Alpha Omega AcademyJesse had asked for all his school to be done on computer prior to homeschooling and fortunately I was able to find a curriculum that would give him that, with the added benefit of online lessons and a teacher for every subject. Of course for me the bonus is not having to worry about marking schoolwork & whether or not I can explain the material to him. With 9 months de-schooling time now complete, Jesse is now back to school for his Freshman Year with Alpha Omega Academy as from the 1st of August. The past two months of homeschooling him have been a breeze. No more constant reminding or nagging necessary for him to get his schoolwork done. Due to the time difference, his online lessons start from 3pm, just the way he likes it. His pc work can be done at any time of the day, so when he wants to go out in the evening, he just does his work during the day instead. This curriculum allows him to study where he’s most comfortable and also at his most productive time of the day which unlike most is in the late afternoon/evening. If the past 3 months are anything to go by, then the next four years of high school homeschooling should be a breeze.

Here are some of our recent news updates since changing curriculum & learning strategies:

At this stage I’m not sure if Switched on Schoolhouse through Alpha Omega Academy is going to work as well for Misha as it does for Jesse, but I trust we’ll be able to find a similarly successful curriculum for Misha when he gets to high school. For now he’ll continue unschooling with a variety of activities until he gets to grade 6. We will continually re-evaluate and change curriculum as necessary.Image(1)

Now let us visit the homes of our Carnival Contributors to see how they have dealt with this challenge of finding the correct curriculum fit for their children:

is a seasoned homeschooler and shared some very valuable insight on how parents should choose a curriculum in his post How should parents choose a homeschooling curriculum?” In his post he confirms that due to people and circumstances changing over the years, it is wise to avoid purchasing a complete curriculum just in case the need to change curriculum arises later.

doesn’t have a blog but submitted the following:

“I began homeschooling May 2012. All the different curriculum providers overwhelmed me so much. Thank goodness for the Facebook group we have where you find a lot of useful information on homeschooling. I attended the homeschool expo last year in Cape Town and grabbed a pamphlet from each provider! Went home and studied them, still only to be more confused for I did not yet realize what style my 8 year old and 5 year old needed. After seeing a lot of positive comments on Sonlight and Love 2 Learn, I first tried out Brainline. I was still very much into the structured and organized side of how schooling should be and Brainline fell into that category, and of course all the exams which I felt at the time was a must.

Brainline was a complete disaster for we ended up sitting from 08h00 in the morning to 18h00 at night, printing the sheets and doing endless homework – this was for Grade 2!! Two weeks of hell, we immediately stopped Brainline and I then decided to go for Sonlight. Sonlight is a great curriculum with excellent living and enriching books, but after 4 months I realized my son is a Kinaesthetic learner and he did not like what Sonlight offered. Arjay needs to work with his hands almost on every subject or he looses interest and runs off. But for my 5 year old, she is more a Visual learner and LOVES colourful and reading books. Sonlight works perfect for her.

So I had to customize some of the resources together for Arjay to actually sit down or then walk around and learn something.

I bought Maths-u-see and we are flying through the lessons. He loves the blocks and learning that way. Building and working out problems with his new colourful blocks – an added bonus!

I ordered Apologia for the Science part. A lot of experiments and walking outside to actually go and find the animals or insects and study them in detail. Not looking through books, but actually go and find them and design a nice lap book.

I ordered LLATL, have not received it yet, but hope it will work just as good as the rest.

So yes, Sonlight works perfectly for Saskia, all the colourful books and writing. A real book worm. Visual learner.

Customized Maths-u-see, Apologia and LLATL for Arjay, experiments and moving around and about. Kinaesthetic learner.”

shares her experience in her post “Switching Curriculum”. I found some comfort in the fact that even a “seasoned” home educator could find switching curriculum daunting & intriguing. It just goes to show that feeling anxious when curriculum is not working is quite normal. Her tell tale red flags give a good indication as to when it’s “broken” and investigation into another approach may be required.

is another seasoned home educator whose blog has been both informative and inspirational to me over the last 2 years. In her blog post Choosing the Right Homeschooling Curriculum, she shares how thrilling it is to see how all kinds of families choose to homeschool from all walks of life, but one thing these families have in common is their confusion when choosing the RIGHT curriculum on a journey that is so unfamiliar and uncertain.  What should one take into consideration when choosing a curriculum? In this posting Linnie listed five points to take into consideration with the purpose to guide our children not only to learn information but discover their gifting and talents, which will direct them to their purpose in life and give them the satisfaction of seeing God work through them, changing the World.

Thank you to these contributors for sharing their lives with us. May you all go from strength to strength & be blessed in all that you do. I trust you will enjoy visiting these blogs as much as I did.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules here. All children are different and what works for one family may not necessarily work for another. This post is meant to encourage you that you are not alone in this quest and that you can find the solution to suit your child’s best method of learning. From my experience it’s important to get to know your children and how they learn best before investing a fortune in curriculum. Try out various materials and do not be afraid to adjust it or change it all together if it doesn’t work. Most importantly, enjoy your kids, build relationships, relax and have fun…

Sometimes a curriculum may not need replacing, but with some tweaking may prove effective after all. Please read this article entitled How to Adjust your Curriculum in the July issue of the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for some tips on adjusting curriculum.

CurrClick Affordable curriculum, lapbooks, & homeschooling resources as well as some great Live lessons and Free Clubs.

Homeschool Tracker

“I know that it will be impossible to teach them everything that is now known. Knowing this, I have determined that it is much more important to provide an excellent basic education as well as to teach them how to think and find answers. “
~ Amanda Bennett Unit Studies

As long as you have taught your child how to learn there is nothing he/she cannot learn on their own. So put this on a post note and post it all over the place until you believe it. As long as your child can read a book and understand what it says and knows how to look up what they don't understand, they will always be able to learn something new. And with that knowledge you can never fail your child in teaching.

Our children are going to remember the time we spend with them ~ the time we listen, the time we encourage, and the moral support we offer as they test their wings and ideas, and begin moving on their dreams. Now that's an education!



This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!

SA Home Schooling Blog Carnival October 2012 ~ Changing Curriculum

Friday, October 26, 2012

Holiday 4 Us

2012_1022_095111Another school week is finished for us and with that we’re officially on holiday for the next 2 weeks. A very well deserved break for Daddy who’s been working so hard all year. We’re all looking forward to 10 days at the dolphin coast. This time we will also be doing some exploring in Durban with some, fun, real-life, hand-on geography to add to this year’s learning experiences.

Gibson's Learn and Master Guitar Winner 0f the 2011 Acoustic Guitar Player's Choice Gold AwardThe kids have been thoroughly enjoying their guitar lessons. I’m really impressed to see how fast they are progressing through the sessions. If they keep this up they will finish a year’s worth of lessons in just 4-5 months. I really didn’t expect Jesse to manage to finish by end of November as originally scheduled, but with them already at session 8 with just 2 more sessions to complete the first of our 2 year homeschool curriculum. I’m still looking to source a second hand drum set for Misha who will then also use the Gibson Learn & Master Drums Homeschool curriculum to follow his passion.


As for official “schooling”, Jesse is well on track through his first semester, with well improved grades. If he keeps this up, he’ll pass grade 9 with distinctions. However, he still seems to get bored with the online lessons at times. On Monday the English teacher talked him to sleep with the added benefit of being able to lie comfortably on the couch, not that I can blame him since I was listening in and also found it quite boring. Of course having Gerhard & Keanan around for school seems to be adding some additional motivation for all the kids. I think this positive influence may just help getting Misha back to enjoying learning.

But now first a well deserved holiday in anticipation of our 20th Wedding anniversary on the 31st October. I’m looking forward to some quiet, relaxing, family time but will also be taking some time to read some books to better equip myself to help the boys achieve their full potential. Tomorrow we’ll attend the King’s School Entrepreneurs' day with the boys and then we’ll pack and get ready to leave on Monday morning.

Friday, October 19, 2012


WoW, another week has passed us by and now we’re officially down to 1 week before our family holiday for our 20th wedding anniversary on the 31st October. We are really looking forward to our break and are counting the days…


This has been another eventful week, starting off with a sick teenager having thrown up most of Sunday night & sleeping through most of Monday morning. He seemed to have picked up some stomach bug, but fortunately by Monday afternoon he was looking and feeling much better.

Hubby has offered to help some friends by letting them come to us for “school” using Jesse’s Switched on Schoolhouse Curriculum. On Monday & Wednesday we had the 2 boys over to join our boys for some learning fun. It was great to see them working along. It seems they’re loving this approach to learning and I’m happy that their enthusiasm is also motivating Misha to wanting to learn some more.

2012_1018_1810122012_1018_144704I received the 2012 & 2013 Adventure catalogue from JM Cremp’s in the mail this week and boy oh boy did this spark the boys’ interest.  It’s packed with some great gift ideas for boys. Misha’s been fetching it on a regular basis and has even been reading the descriptions of the items. I’m amazed at how his reading has improved since I’ve stopped all formal reading lessons last year.

2012_1018_160930Jesse’s Alpha Omega Academy is still going strong. I’m impressed at how much his grades have improved. I’ve always known that he was capable of distinctions, although at school his highest scores ranged in the low 70% because for him school was boring. His attitude towards learning has also changed dramatically. I’ve even found him starting his schoolwork long before his scheduled 4pm starting time. At this stage he’s halfway through his 1st semester with an average total score of 92%, all because we were able to give him the type of curriculum he asked for. I’m so happy to have found a curriculum that works for him.

2012_1018_200414Last week he seemed quite impressed at his English teacher sending him a message just to tell him that he did well in his project. He seemed quite impressed since he thought the message in his mailbox meant he had done something wrong. That’s something that’s been sadly lacking during their time at school. He was so tired of hearing teachers tell him he could do better instead of being acknowledged for what he did achieve, that he made no effort do up his grades.

I must admit, I’m quite impressed with our current setup. It’s no-stress for me, since he has allocated teachers for each of his subjects. His work is 80% auto graded and the 20% that I would have needed to grade is graded by qualified teachers within 24 to 48 hours after submission. I think Jesse has the best of both worlds here. The freedom and flexibility of being able to study when & where he feels comfortable seem to be making all the difference.

 2012_1019_152544I m still waiting for Jesse’s friend’s dad to confirm when he’ll be able to help Misha complete his cheetah painting, but this week I found he’d started out something all by himself. Unfortunately he ran out of some colours and stopped. For the time being, I’ll just make sure he has canvases and his paints are stocked. I may just have found and inexpensive art school in Cresta that could help us with singing, drum and painting lessons next year.

2012_1019_1028Today I took the boys to Loraine’s home for their guitar lessons. They have already advanced to Session 8. At the rate they’re going through this homeschool curriculum, they might still manage to finish the first year of the curriculum. I’m happy to see that they’re still enjoying it.


Misha was fetched early to go bumper car riding at Northgate. After guitar I took Jesse through to Northriding for his Junior Engineering lesson. Whilst they were busy I went to visit a friend in the area for coffee. I found him still sitting on the floor with his creation when I returned at 2pm. Misha had already left JEFA with his friends by the time I got there. I got to spend a few quiet hours at home before having to fetch Misha from his friend at 5h30. Except for having Gerhard & Keanan over for “school”and guitar lessons, next week should be a fairly quiet one. Of course I’ll need to start preparations for our holiday.

SA Home Schooling Blog Carnival ~ October 2012 Changing Curriculum


Calling all Homeschool Bloggers: I'm scheduled to host the October 2012 SACHS Blog Carnival which is due to go live on 29th October. This month we focus on the topic of "Changing Curriculum". All children have different learning styles resulting in curricula purchased that may not work for all children in a family. Many of us have found fitting curricula through trial and error. With this post we'll looking how other families have dealt with non-fitting curricula & adapted or changed it to fit their situation. Please email a) the exact URL of the blog post you are contributing b) its title and c) a brief description of your blog post to by 26th October.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eventful Week

This has been another eventful week for us. We spent Monday at home except for having to take Jesse to his technology tutor to catch up last week’s lesson. Misha’s had some time to relax & just love the pets and play around outside on the trampoline.


Misha’s latest painting came home from his tutor this week. Unfortunately his tutor is not able to continue his painting and drum lessons because he needs the time to focus on his other projects. We will therefore be looking for a second hand drum set and invest in the Gibson’s Learn & Master Drums Homeschool Curriculum for next year. Jesse’s already said he’d join in learning drums with Misha. Fortunately Misha’s started to show interest in continuing his painting again, but decided he doesn’t want to do it all on his own. Fortunately I was able to find another good artist to help him complete this project. Jesse’s best friend’s dad, Greg will be teaching him to mix his colours & just guide him with the painting from next week onwards. Who knows, maybe we can get our little Picasso back on track.

Misha's Cheetah Painting2012_1008_211400

2012_1011_080943The one area of education that was neglected when we grew up, was that of personal finance & how to manage your money living on a budged. I recently discovered that Dave offers homeschool curriculum in this area and I ordered the Financial Peace Jnr. Kids Monster Pack for Misha. The idea is to do get a group of 6 kids to do this together in order to make it more enjoyable for him. His curriculum arrived on Wednesday and by Friday Misha had already listened and enjoyed the 5 audiobooks.

For next year I’m looking at getting the Foundations in Personal Finance - Home School as well as the Bonus Chapter 13 - The Power of Giving for teens in order to teach Jesse the most important issues on personal finance in a similar small group setting.

Due to Ice Skating scheduled for Friday, I had to move the boys guitar lesson forward to Thursday. I headed out to fetch Gerhard & Keanan for the day. Clive had offered that they can come to our home and join our boys doing school on the computers. After their guitar lesson, I had Keanan try out the Switched on Schoolhouse Language Arts and Teaching Textbooks Maths. He also did two more levels of Times Attack. From the looks of it, he seems to enjoy learning this way. Gerhard also got to try his hand on Switched on Schoolhouse Science. He also did some of the English & Maths Jesse was doing on Clive’s iPad earlier this year. Jesse & Gerhard started on Session 7 of the guitar curriculum whilst the two younger boys had loads of fun playing Wii Fit.


Friday was another busy day, starting with ice skating. We left home at 8h3o to fetch Gerhard & Keanan. The boys were on the ice just after 9am and by 12h20 we dashed off to Valley Vineyard Church for the first session of this term’s Junior Engineering. Misha went home with a friend from there, but I took Jesse back to the ice rink for some more ice skating just after 2pm. By 3h30 they had enough ice skating so we headed back to drop Gerhard & Keanan at their home and Jesse for his sleepover at Scott’s.


I still find it strange when I leave home with 2 kids in the morning and after a full day away, to get home with none. I fetched Misha after doing grocery shopping and Jesse will be returning home sometime tomorrow.

   I spent much of last night reading “How Children Fail” by John Holt in order to help Misha’s best friend’s mom find some answers on why he is failing 4th Grade English although he’s doing fine in most of his other subjects. With so many kids going through school issues, I’ve decided to equip myself in order to help parents with struggling children find ways to help them cope with their environment & reach their full potential. Next on my list of reads are: “Teach Your Own", “Learning All The Time” and “How Children Learn” also by John Holt.

Learn & Master SeriesJoin Me at The Homeschool Post!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Field Trips

We started our last term a little earlier than the schools because we’re planning to take 2 weeks off for our 20th wedding anniversary from the 29th October. I finally found inexpensive accommodation in Balito, so we’re looking forward to a relaxing break at the sea.

This has been quite a hectic week again where field trips are concerned. On Tuesday morning I fetched 2 friends and took the boys to the sci-bono for their holiday program. We left home a little later than initially planned and arrived at the Sci-Bono around 11am.

Since this was their 4th visit to the Sci-Bono, I was quite surprised that the boys managed to entertain themselves for such a long time. They attended a Balloon Car Building session at 14h30 and we finally left just after 3pm.

On Wednesday we joined a group of homeschoolers for a tour of the Melt Chocolates Kitchen in Nicolway, Bryanston. This is a beautiful little chocolate shop with a kitchen that is visible from the outside.

There we learnt a bit about the history of chocolate & got to taste see how they create these delectable favourites. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see how chocolate was made, but the tastings were yummy & we enjoyed the field trip nevertheless. I think I may still try & arrange a trip to an actual chocolate factory in the future sometime.

On Thursday we visited the Douglasdale Dairy in Bryanston. We were a little disappointed that there are no cows and the kids didn’t get to see how the cows are milked.

They did learn a bit about dairy products and how it is packaged, though. I think we made up for the last month’s field trips we’ve missed with all these activities in one week.

Every child received a 500ml bottle of milk and 4 Douglasdale Dairy glasses to take home.

Afterwards Misha went home with a friend and Jesse & I stopped by the shops to do some grocery shopping. Jesse’s friend came over later for a sleepover.

On Friday Misha had a friend over to come play and in the afternoon I dropped Jesse & his friend at Northgate for ice skating.