Monday, December 7, 2009

We're all going on a summer holiday.....

It's Sunday, but it feels like Monday! That's because my husband started his annual leave last Thursday and he's been home for 3 days now. Funny how changes in routines can effect you subconsciously.

December is supposed to be holiday time in our home, but at the moment we've been dealing with tummy bugs and trying to get ready for our first long family holiday! It's been five years since my husband and I went on a holiday which was more than a week-end get-away! And this will be the first long holiday with our kids! Up until now we've only been on week-end away camping or holiday-home "adventures", as Jenna likes to call them. And those have been few and far between themselves!

But this year we are so blessed to be getting away with our dear friends to spend time with them and their children in KwaZulu Natal on their parent's farm and at their beach house.

So it's been a bit of a run around week. We are taking a slow drive up from Cape Town to Albert Falls, where the farm is. Stopping along the way in Beaufort West and Bloemfontein. I love driving to my holiday destinations and am feeling very spoilt as my husband has decided to splash out on places to stay (instead of camping!) to break up our journey into more manageable distances. As it's the first time we're traveling FAR with the kids I've been trying to plan easy snacks for eating in the car and ways of entertaining them as we are traveling. So that has meant besides Christmas shopping, I've also been food and "activity" shopping and getting the house ready for going away. I can't wait to be on the road to put all this business behind us! Holidays are meant for resting and that's all we want to do right now!

So think of us we leave on Thursday 17 Dec. We're trusting for safe travels and  peaceful traveling, but would appreciate your prayers too!

Till we return, may you all have a blessed Christmas filled with laughter and family!
I know that's what we're going to do!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creativity unleashed.....

Holding hands

Jenna expressed herself creatively while we baked.
We still haven't found the perfect recipe-but hey, at least we're baking!
p.s. you're welcome to share your favourite child-friendly recipe with us-please keep in mind I am not a baker AND we have a faulty oven ;-)

Overcoming Fears

Dad showed us he could overcome his fears when we found the second rain spider, in one week, hanging from the rafters. Jenna fearlessly helped encourage from the sidelines with imaginative ideas to trap the spider. Mom hid in the room (2 in one week was a bit too much for me!) and Michael slept on peacefully totally unaware of the drama happening around him.

The ambulance

Inspired by a library book Jenna decided to create an ambulance for Michael to play in...

it soon turned into The Present Box.

Map work

During rest time today Jenna decided to design a map....

complete with a church and it's steeple.

Of course Michael was delighted to wake up to find somewhere to play with his cars, especially after Jenna added a police station at his request.

Getting ready for Christmas.

We've spent the past two days blowing food colouring around to make our  Christmas wrapping paper. It was a great way to learn about colours, unfortunately our purple came out looking a little black though.
We printed stars with poster paints for our cards and sprinkled glitter over them before they dried. 

Out for walks.

I felt that we weren't getting enough exercise lately so we're trying to go for more walks around the neighbourhood, at least! This does mean that even on windy days I have to conjure up enthusiasm to go for a walk. Today I suggested that we put something on our heads to protect our ears from the wind.......

well, I look forward to future walks if this is the creativity it inspires!
{Jenna couldn't find her woolen hat so she grabbed a dishcloth and a "bulldog" clasp to design her own wind protector) What a funny, creative girl she is!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding a road to follow.....

When you get together with other home schoolers the question of : What curriculum do you use? Is bound to come up. And of course it has definitely come up at our home school socials.

Most of us have pre-schoolers and one or two families have school-age children. A few of the moms have chosen curriculums they follow or would like to follow and a few of us have researched but haven't quite decided yet -if ever?!

When I started researching I felt that I wanted to follow something that was literature based. And I thought that I wanted something that would cover some sort of South African history. I also felt that I wanted something that was centered on the Lord. The Home School Curriculum for Life site covered quite a lot of these criteria with suggestions which they had. But I'm a visual tactile learner, I can't just look at something on a screen and decide, I need the real thing in my hands. I need to page through, read and ponder.
So my first step was to find people who were using the curriculum's that looked interesting to me. Let me just say firstly, in SA we have a handful of curriculum providers. Yes, it is a growing market, but thankfully not a huge one yet! So I didn't have much to choose from, which has been a blessing for me. You see, curriculum planning had been my strength as a teacher. I loved figuring out how children learnt and what would be the best way to put something across to them so that they could grasp a new concept. In fact assessing, planning and choosing new learning material was one of my interest areas.
At the time I started researching curriculums so was my close friend. We would often compare notes or information about meetings to attend. The first meeting we attended together was for an American christian curriculum which followed a unit study approach on christian values/principles. I liked the unit study approach, it was pretty much what I was doing with my children already, we were doing it more interest-led rather than a pre-planned module. However, I just didn't feel at peace that this was the way for us to go. It was after receiving an e-mail from another home schooling mom I knew, about a wonderful, encouraging web site from which she was learning so much that I realised that if the Lord has something to teach us that He thinks is important then HE will provide the material and the situation. For example: if you are studying perseverance, because it's the next module, but in your home life your children are facing daily challenges with patience, then that is what the Lord is wanting them to learn about! So I ruled out the need to have a curriculum centered on the Lord-our lives, I hoped, would be centered on Him! (Thank you Jesus that you can teach us through the simple daily routine of our lives. Help us to willingly learn and yield to your guiding hand.)

So the next step was to find a curriculum which covered South African history. There were only two which I came across in my search. After attending my first curriculum fair, I managed to whittle it down to one. At the fair both curriculums were on display. The first took up a quarter of the small hall. Too many books, a huge manual for each year and my head was spinning! Definitely knew that one was not for me-I would become a slave to the curriculum, ticking off every block and driving myself dilly doing it!
The second one was on a small table of it's own-definitely an option to consider. I made a mental note:Would have to find someone who had one to get my hands on for some serious browsing!!!

I had to wait a while before I could finally get my hands on the curriculum which was based on South African history and geography, so in the meantime I returned to the internet to browse for other ideas along the literature route.

My children love books. Jenna is a visual-auditory learner (as far as I can tell) who has learnt so much already through books, dvd's and the computer. Michael is more of an auditory-kinaesthetic learner (a little early for me to pinpoint-this is a guesstimate!) He likes to do and learns quickly by just listening or experiencing something in the purest form. So when I heard about Charlotte Mason and her literature and nature study methods I decided to do some more reading. I told you I loved reading and research didn't I?!

I discovered the Ambleside Online site and joined their e-loops for various groups. Ambleside Online is basically a curriculum guide and book list which you can follow according to the methods as described by Charlotte Mason an educator in the late 1800's. The e-loops and site provide extensive support and advice on how to implement her methods. But I think that I'll have to share what I learnt from Charlotte on another post, there's just too much to write about here!

In a nutshell, I thought that I had found what I was looking for at Ambleside Online-my only problem was finding the literature to support it.
And this was when I finally got my hands on the South African curriculum. Part of it's selling point to me was that it was based on methods used by Charlotte Mason. It was also a unit study approach using literature from South African authors in the early years. After perusing through the manual and looking at the literature I can honestly say I liked what I saw BUT I have a tendency to be a purist and although it followed some of Miss Mason's methods; she was not really an advocate for the Unit Study approach.  
I've earmarked this curriculum, because it has a great South African book-list from Grade 1 to Grade 12. And I'm sure I could use this alongside the Ambleside Online book list. Perhaps? Maybe someday, when and if I decide we are using a curriculum! ;-)

And so there I was, still not 100% certain of what I would use to educate my children. Still feeling like it was too early to start anything formal anyway. But STILL feeling that the Lord has a plan and that trusting that He would show us the way was all I needed to do.

So at times we discuss possible curriculums at our home school socials. At times I have a wobbly feeling like I must be crazy not to be following a curriculum. Sometimes I go back into research mode and read all the information about a curriculum or method someone else is using-just to check it out and settle my conscience. I don't think that the Lord wants me to be ignorant. I do think that because He knows our family and the plans He has for us, he also has His way of showing me personally what is right for us. One of the most awesome blessings I have found from being a part of our home school group is that by allowing anyone to be a part of it, this has helped me to accept that the Lord works in all of us in different ways and at different times. When we come together to share what He is doing we help to build each other up in Christ. We may not all follow the same curriculum or methods but I believe that this is not as important as building relationships. So for now, seeking His kingdom and growing in our knowledge of Him and His ways is a good enough curriculum for us!

JUST A NOTE: I know that there are many people out there who home school and just like those families who choose to send their children to what they feel is the best school, some families feel that they have found the best curriculum to home school. I just want to say that in no way do I disagree with any other family using any of the curriculums or methods I have researched. I truly believe that because we are all individuals the Lord uses different materials/ways to teach us and that no one curriculum or method is "the only one meant for all". Being in a relationship with Our Saviour means allowing Him to teach us about His ways using what we feel He has guided us to.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning to drive on the Lord's pathways.

One of my favourite scriptures is:

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who has began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

This is a promise I often have to cling to. It is a truth which I believe in my mind, but my heart is taking a little longer to hold on to it. Too often I fall into the trap of trying to do things on my own. When the Lord puts a desire in my heart, it is my role to trust that HE will make it happen! He created me to do His good works (works which He knows!) So I believe that all I need to do is wait patiently for His guidance and learn to trust that He will answer the desire He planted in me.

A little over a year ago the only other home schoolers I knew were two other families in our church. After doing a lot of research I began to feel that I needed to find other moms who were home schooling. Initially I wanted to spend time chatting to them just to find out what they were doing and how they were doing it. Then my desire changed to finding a supportive community of home schoolers.
We live in a valley. This is not a busy city! Even though I could recognise familiar faces from regular visits to our shopping mall, not many people walk around with "we home school" T-shirts. In my mind it was not going to be easy to find other home schoolers!

Home schooling is still relatively small in SA. We don't have (to the best of my knowledge) lists of support groups which you can join. So I took advice from one of the books which I had read. I decided to create a support group of my own. My husband and I designed a poster to put up in the library. (He is a graphic designer by the way) My goal was to invite any other home schoolers to join me in the park once a month to socialise.

At our first park day there were four families. Had any of them seen the poster? No! One family my friend had met at a play centre. The other I had bumped into at the mall. We invited them to our first park day. For me, it was wonderful to meet families who were actually doing the real thing! Both of these families have four children, the majority of which are school going age. 

My poster was still up in the library. I checked to see if anyone had torn off my contact numbers, some were gone, but still no phone calls.

I am not usually a person who strikes up conversations with complete strangers. I am usually quite tentative to step into new social circles. Even this the Lord has started to change in me. A year and a half ago I had a desire to meet other home schoolers in my "little" Valley. Since then the Lord has prompted me to strike up conversations with complete strangers only to discover that they were also interested in home schooling. Through the e-loop I joined I met another mom from our area whom I felt I should invite to our park days. I bumped into an old school friend again and discovered that she was also interested in home schooling. And yes, not one of these moms ever saw the poster I put up in the library. When the Lord plants a seed of desire in our hearts He will make it happen!

Although many of the moms join our park days because they are seeking a place for their children to socialise, it has been a blessing to all of us to find other's who are on the same journey. We have started to build friendships not only for our children but for ourselves. Most of us are moms of pre-schoolers. This means that we are all asking similar questions or having similar experiences. It has been amazing to see how the Lord has used these meetings.
At first we met only once a month. After a while a few of the moms were asking for more regular meetings. So we started up a small co-op group. At the co-op we baked, painted, sewed and played social games. We even had an organised outing to the Fire Station. As we met once a week this allowed for us moms to get to know one another better. Often the meetings turned into times of sharing testimonies and encouraging one another in the Lord. Because the venue we met in was small we had to limit our numbers. So after a short season of co-op I felt that the Lord was wanting us to spend time reaching out to other moms who we couldn't accommodate at the co-op. As we are entering summer our meetings have taken on more of a social aspect again. Depending on the weather we organise weekly visits to either the beach, common, forest or indoor play centre.
Relationships are important. Our Heavenly Father knows that we need others to encourage us as we learn more about Him. Because we have Christ in us, when we share what we are learning from Him, this helps to build up another's faith. There have been times of trials for me in this short season of our park days and co-ops, times when I've wondered if I should really be doing this. Most of those trials have been because I tried to take back control of what we were doing. As I learn to let the Lord be in control I am also learning that the most important relationship I have is my one with Him. If I am not seeking Him first for support and guidance, it is not easy to support or encourage others.

As I reflect on how the Lord has orchestrated this community of home schoolers I am now supported by, I am reminded of that beautiful hymn:

Truly, we serve a God of Love who cares for our every need! Sometimes my impatience causes me to want to race ahead and do things in my own strength and time. Waiting patiently for His plans to unfold is a beauty to behold!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If you were wondering.....

I thought I would post some pictures showing you what we've been up to lately, just in case you've been wondering.....

Summer is finally here so that means we are outdoors more often. We live in a beautiful part of the world - if I may say so myself :-) If you look on a map of Africa we're almost on the Southern tip-the pointy part that sticks out! Cape Point Nature Reserve is the closest well known tourist destination. People like to call this The Deep South-we just call it the laid-back-side of Cape Town, because the life style pace is really slow!
Our home is situated in a valley, on a peninsula, between two beaches-confused???? I wish I could paint a clearer picture, but it's almost impossible. So, we are surrounded by mountains and beaches and when Summer arrives, we spend a lot of time on both of these beautiful creations.

We've been to a variety of beaches lately with different friends and for different reasons.

Windmill Beach (just outside of Simon's Town) with a group of home schoolers. The kids had a wonderful time building sand castles.

Noordhoek Beach for a sunset picnic. That was just the family-the kids loved it. It was the first time this Summer so it felt like a new adventure for them.

Our last beach trip was with my children's closest friends.
We visited Glencairn tidal pool. The kids had a blast exploring the rock pools.

Here the children are pointing out a group of Red starfish.

We had a lot of first time sightings. This was the most beautiful, a hairy brittlestar. I know the picture is small-I hope you can see it! I'm still learning how to use the camera ;-)

And this rather ugly creature is called a bloodworm. It's used for bait. The children followed a fisherman around the pool as he used a pump to suck it out from below the sand.

And when we can't be outdoors........

there's always time for dressing up and dancing!

Now you know what we've been up to..... well a little bit of what we've been up to. I could go on all night but I must get some rest-Jenna wants to bake tomorrow! And that takes lots of patience when you have an almost three year old who loves to eat all the batter before his sister can even make one biscuit!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm still learning to drive an automatic and let go of the gear shift....

A lot of what I had read on the internet spoke of implementing routines and being organised. Routines! Aahhh, something I was good at doing ;-) We already had daily routines in place, like meal times, sleep times and story times. Our week already had a routine to it. Shopping day, cleaning day, a day to visit friends and a day to visit grandparents. And we still met with my friend and her children to do crafts.
So what did the teacher in me do? Designed a planner! What’s on this week? Did the planner help? Well, it made me see that my kids were already being exposed to learning situations! However, I was still feeling a little guilty that I wasn’t doing anything constructive with Jenna (something I would also need to learn to not worry about). So I started introducing a baking day and a day to be out walking and exploring in nature.

Now, I am not really a homemaker at heart! Cooking, cleaning and crafts are not my strong points! However, I am blessed with a husband who thinks I am great at cooking and doesn’t get too bothered with a mess. So, if I am perfectly honest, it is my high expectations of self and perception that I needed to do what other moms were doing, that led to the next mammoth task! Using a menu plan I found from another home school mom, I designed a weekly meal planner. (That took me weeks to complete!)
I also spent time trying to plan a cleaning routine. I thought that it was important for the kids to see me doing the housework, and even joining in!

Boy does it take a while for the penny to drop for me.
I knew that the Lord was helping me to let go of my need to control my environment by means of set routines. But I was still finding it hard to let go. You see, first I needed to realize that what others did in their homes wasn’t necessarily what we needed to do! This was learnt the hard way. I was trying to follow advice from other moms instead of resting in the Lord and seeking His way for us! The result was: The routines started ruling me as I spent more time planning and cleaning than relaxing and being with the kids! 

Cleaning my home was even taking me away from time with my kids. It also added stress (self-imposed!) when I wasn’t managing to clean because I needed to help them with their little life lessons. Yes, I know that there are many moms out there who do both. Well, the Lord wasn’t asking me to be someone else-He was asking me to be me! In fact, I soon realized that I had a certain amount of pride about the fact that I could run my own home, cleaning, cooking and raising kids. So for me, personally, I had to let go of this and once again went to my husband with a request: Please could I get a domestic helper? We are now so blessed to have Annah, who helps us keep our home clean! And now that I don’t need to clean the floors at night or catch up on ironing I can spend much needed time with my husband!

Surfing the net was great, but learning to discern what the Lord was wanting for us as a family was the most important lesson I needed to learn. The Lord knows us as individuals. He knows our needs even before we do. He wants to bless us! He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us. I learnt that I would often turn away from His blessings and feel that I needed to do everything on my own. When instead, I should have been leaning on My Lord and trusting that the Author of my Life had already pre-planned all the days of my life, all I needed to learn was to listen! Something I have to practice everyday!!!

And what were my children learning all this time? To discover their own world! 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Discovering a whole new world of ideas……

Discovering a whole new world.....

The library was running out of books to read and I was starting to feel that I needed to find other types of support. When I was teaching I always had two or more colleagues whom I could go to, to ask questions or bounce ideas off of. Now I had no one whom I could turn to who was following the same path.
I was going through a patch of “ What exactly am I doing here?” After ten years of teaching, where every day was mapped out and you had a clear idea of who you answered to, I now had no one telling me: These are the “rules” follow them!
None of the books I had read related to home schooling in South Africa. The few home schoolers I knew didn’t really know about the legalities of home schooling in South Africa, so I couldn’t even turn to them for help.
After much consideration and discussion I think I finally convinced my husband that it was time to ……… get internet access at home!
Wooooohooooo! I felt like Jan van Riebeek!!!! (Ok, I know he probably didn’t discover South Africa, but as history was not my favourite subject I’m not really sure who did!)
As I learnt to use the internet I spent a lot of time reading other families accounts of their home schooling lives. Again I was drawn to the more unschooling type families-it just seemed to be far more relaxed! I think I had teacher burnout still from all that planning and anything that looked remotely like planning and following a curriculum, just seemed like I would end up being ruled by the curriculum again!
Eventually, I started to find sites which were South African based. I had always known that there was a S.A home schooling community out there, finding it hasn’t been that easy. Realising how young home schooling is in S.A compared to the USA or UK helped explain the small amount of information available to us. I joined an S.A e-loop and my world opened up even more. Here I could see that home schooling was indeed growing in S.A, as weekly, new families would introduce themselves.
I discovered a wonderful, comprehensive site written by an S.A home schooling mom: Homeschool Curriculum for Life. Here I began to learn more about practical home schooling tips. Somehow the fact that it was coming from a fellow S.A mom helped me feel like it might just be possible to do this in S.A.
By now my philosophy about education and learning was changing from: a set in stone curriculum is needed to map your way to: the Lord created us all as individuals and each family should seek Him as the ultimate curriculum provider! Who knows us better and who knows our needs, desires and gifts? Learning to trust Him for this guidance was part of the home schooling journey. Learning to trust and let go control to Him is my daily challenge! But by His grace the teacher in me is learning to let go of a need for a curriculum whilst the mom in me is saying: Slow down, watch, wait and see: they are learning everyday, in their own way. He is their ultimate teacher, I am here to enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reading any and every "map" book to discover a possible route!

I love to read. In fact I could spend all day in bed reading if given half the chance-but that doesn't happen around here anymore. My love for reading and thirst for knowledge about home schooling led me to the library. As home schooling is still relatively young in South Africa, finding literature at the library was not that easy. At first I couldn't find many books at all and so I just started with books which focused on: "How to prepare your child for school", or "Stimulating your child at home". But none of them seemed to waver from the: design-fancy-teaching-activities-to-stimulate-your-child style which I had already discovered didn't suit our family.

Eventually I discovered that one of the librarians was a fellow home schooler. She was in the process of correlating a file of home schooling support material and a special shelf for any books related to home schooling. Yippee! A like minded soul!
As she ordered books, I reserved them, read them and digested all the info inside. I'm a researcher at heart, and this meant I needed to read about all aspects of home schooling I could find in order to fully understand what was best for us.

My book list included:
  • The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith,
  • The Successful Homeschooling Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore,
  • The McGraw-Hill Homeschooling Companion by Laura Saba and Julie Gattis,
  • Free Range Education by Terri Dowty
  • Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
  • A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
  • More Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How-to Manual by Catherine Levison

The teacher in me was slowly being convinced that my conscience was not entirely crazy! School at home was not what we enjoyed or desired and in fact many others felt the same.

So there I was. System overloaded with info about how-to, when-to, why and how of many different styles and theories of home schooling. I took a while to process the info and still felt that the Lord was saying: As you live your life you learn what you need to know. Teach your children about Me and about the world as you go about your daily living.

Because we had done "school" at my friend's home, my daughter still asked for it. 
 At first I tried to say :"We aren't going to do school any more love, life is learning and we'll learn what we need to as we go." But she is a creative child, who desired a routine. So I complied by spending time with her doing school-like things when her brother napped. We built puzzles, played games, squashed playdough, painted, drew, cut and glued and read lots and lots of books. And when she wasn't doing school? She loved to run around naked, climb trees, play with her imaginary little girl, visit her best friends, watch d.v.d's and of course, entertain her brother.

She went through the "why" stage and I tried to answer any questions she had the best I could either using books or her daddy-who is like a living encyclopeadia with a limitless capacity to store information! ;-)
Writing her name became an obsession. At first the teacher in me felt very uncertain about the implications of teaching her to write from the age of 3 and a half. But as it wasn't copious amounts of writing and I was right beside her when she wrote, I could gently guide her.
She has a great visual memory and had learnt most of her letters through books. So we started to play a simple game of what sound do you hear at the beginning of a word? After my initial introduction to the game she would often initiate it during the day as we would go about our daily life: Mommy do you know what toast starts with? What sweetie? t!
Of course her most challenging learning experience at this time was her 16 month younger brother! He was now very mobile and loved to do all that she did.... including climb trees! (or at least try!)

Along with realising that we didn't need lots of fancy apparatus or toys to learn, I was also beginning to see that when my daughter was ready to learn something new she'd ask questions. It wasn't really my job to expose her to loads of new information. Rather, my role was to answer her questions and patiently wait for a new interest to sprout! At this time in her life her interests lay in learning letters and numbers (reading, writing and counting). That was quite a lot to master for a just-turned four year old!

While my children's life experiences became their daily lessons I was soon to discover something new that would broaden my home school horizons.....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moving along....

My friend and I were both trained teachers. In fact we had met while she studied at the school I was teaching at. We both had a desire to be at home with our children. As a recently qualified teacher she was very inspirational to me and it was a joy to watch her enthusiasm. Her creativity and lesson ideas were wonderful. We spent a lot of time together with our children and eventually decided to start doing pre-school like activities together. We met together twice a week and followed a structured pre-school like timetable. Our planning sessions were a wonderful time of sharing and encouraging one another in our walk of motherhood and home schooling.

After a while she decided that she would like to set up a pre-school in her garage for other children to attend as well as our children. By this time I had had my son and I tried to help with lessons but found it quite difficult to stay focused and relaxed when I knew that he would either need a sleep or feed soon.
During this time I began to feel that this pre-school like schedule really didn't feel like natural learning to me. I kept on thinking: Surely we could do this in a more relaxed, home like setting. As I knew that my daughter had learnt a lot through reading books and day to day activities I felt that the school-like lessons were not really necessary for learning. In fact, a lot of what we planned she seemed to already know. We were just trying to make learning "interesting" because that was what we had been trained to do!

So I decided that it was time to stop.

My son was growing older and this meant he was becoming more interactive with my daughter and I during the day. During his nap times I tried to follow a programme of activities with my daughter which was designed to stimulate all areas of the brain and which was aimed at all learning styles. Although my daughter was coping and I could see that there were concepts she was learning, I wasn't really enjoying the lessons. My reasons for not enjoying the lessons were twofold: 1) it seemed like such an effort to do activities with her which she didn't really show an interest in and 2) I could see that the very activities/concepts we were doing could be learnt through daily life. So after a short period of trying to follow a structured programme I decided to stop.

So now what were we to do? I was at home with an almost 3 year old and a baby and I didn't know how to keep myself or them "busy"!
So I set up a weekly routine and planned to follow that. As I had learnt that living life was the best way for our family to learn I felt that the best thing to do would be to involve my children in my daily routine as much as I could. This wasn't really a new idea to us, as this is what we had been doing all along, we had just added school like activities to our routine. So basically we just stopped following the learning programme we had been using.

My children went to the shops with me. They helped (in very small ways) around the house while I did housework. We made play dates with friends and visited family. The library, beach, park and petting farms became regular visiting places. We had a routine to our day and a routine to our week. To keep my daughter stimulated I bought pre-school like computer games, magazines and craft equipment. We also met once a week with my friend and her two similar aged children to do craft like activities.

In the meantime I was reading every book I could get hold of that discussed home schooling.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The road to freedom.

So why does a qualified teacher with ten years teaching experience decide to home school? This is a question I get asked often. To give one complete answer is impossible. I have realised that part of this home schooling journey involves change and as I have mentioned before, sometimes daily change!

To put it simply I will say that it has grown on me! And this is how.....

Four and a half years ago I left the secure, organized, curriculum based institution of teaching to give birth to our little girl. I knew at the time that I would not be returning to the classroom for a while. I resigned from teaching other people's children to become the sole educator of my own child.
During my last year I was asked by a parent, whose older daughter I had taught, what did I think of home schooling? Without hesitation I replied: I would seriously consider it for my child, she shouldn't be concerned about her own abilities, go for it! (To this day I'm not sure why I gave such a supportive answer!)
Never the less a seed was planted.

We have friends who are blessed with four beautiful children who have felt that it is the Lord's will that they home school their children. At the time of my daughter's birth they had three children under the age of five. They weren't following any curriculum then but the desire was there. Knowing that they were interested gave me someone to go to, to ask my first few tentative questions. Basically the answer was: The Lord had given her the desire and she felt that for her children to be a blessing to others it was her responsibility to train them up in the way they should go.  For me that was both overwhelming and awesome at the same time! She desired to do it?! She actually wanted to be with her children 24/7! She thought her children could be a blessing for others because of how she trained them?! WOW! What a responsibility!

I will interject here to say that I now realise that: The Lord can change our heart (and it's desires) and that only by grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit do we learn how to train up our children in the Lord's ways.

And so the roots begin to grow....

Spending everyday with my daughter brought both many trials and many blessings. After the initial shock of becoming a parent, I settled into the awestruck role of observer, encourager and milestone recorder. While teaching I had been witness to many children who, because of poor gross and fine motor development as babes, had struggled to cope within the school environment. Because of this I felt that it was important to encourage Jenna (my daughter) to develop her gross motor skills (sitting, crawling, walking, climbing) and in turn her fine motor skills (holding small objects, building block towers, feeding herself). It was during this time that I started to realize that the more that I exposed her to the more she was eager to learn. There was no formal teaching happening, just life. From an early age she became a member of the library and she fell in love with books. We would often find her sitting on her “reading” chair looking over her favourite books.

I made a point of finding new and interesting places to explore together within our area. Often these places provided us with new learning opportunities. Visiting the farm animals not only helped her to recognize the animals we had been reading about in books but also provided us with the opportunity to overcome fears of new and loud sounds. I was learning about my child and she was learning about her world.

As she grew older I was amazed at her ability to retain new information and skills. We spent a lot of time outdoors playing, climbing and exploring new environments. I tried my best not to hold her back when faced by a new physical challenge and encouraged her to attempt anything she showed an interest in that would help her develop physically. I also believed that reading to her daily was a good way to enrich and grow her vocabulary and knowledge.
All this time I kept thinking to myself: If my child can retain so much information just from daily life experiences and lots of being read to, then why can't all children? This is what I had longed for in teaching: learning through life experiences and not creating life experiences to learn from! 

My child rearing philosophy at this stage of her life was: As her parents we could expose her to what we felt was important and we would be there to help her to learn how to face her challenges.
Around about this time I fell pregnant with my second child and another very dear friend and I decided to "school" our children together in her "classroom" garage.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Making a break from the old routine....

I used to be a routine bound person. I needed to know when everything was happening and how it was going to happen. Being in control of the when's and how's gave me security. Security in me......

Over the past five years though the Lord has shown me how I have let routines rule me. He has begun to set me free. Let me give you an example: When I taught I was required to keep a planner of my daily and weekly goals. I was a meticulous planner. I knew what I would teach, when I would teach it and how I would teach it. Initially nothing was left to spur of the moment inspirations. If I didn't have my planner near me-I didn't know what to do, I wouldn't feel secure! Oh yes, I did eventually reach a point when I realised that this was not a good place to be in and I did eventually convince myself that I was good enough to teach without a planner. But that was only after I was experienced and I could pretty much run on routine and in built instinct. But still, it was me I found my security in.....

When I left teaching to have my daughter these insecurities just became highlighted by the unpredictability of motherhood! Raising children is even more unpredictable than a class of 35 six year olds! I tried desperately to force my daughter into a routine (feeding and sleeping!) Yes, after 6 months she did eventually have a regular sleep and feed pattern (which I had decided on) but in the process I had laid down the rails for later habits in both her and myself that would need to be lifted up and rerouted.
As she grew older I wished that I could have freedom from not always having to rush home or leave a social event for sleep times or meal times. You see, mommy had been so stressed about everything happening at the same time in the same way, that my precious little daughter became ruled by routines and "needed" them now, just as much as myself, to feel secure! I was stuck in fear. Fear of what if? What if I keep her up too late, will she cry too much? Will she be too tired that she won't go to sleep? Then that would be way too stressful for mom, who desperately needed everything to run smoothly and to the T so that I could feel in control and "safe".
Then along came my second child. I had decided that I wouldn't be as "strict" about sleeping and feeding routines. I had definitely learnt many lessons from my first mothering experience and wasn't wanting to repeat them! Although I was more relaxed with him I can't say that I totally stopped all routines. Letting go of routines has happened slowly.

All this time the Lord waited patiently for me to realise that He is in control. That He doesn't work according to the same routines everyday. Yes, I know He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow-but that means that He is the same loving Father, who loves us patiently, waiting for us to accept His way for our life and family. It doesn't mean that what He says will work for one is going to work for all. He created us as individuals. He loves our individuality. He doesn't need or want us to be the same! He needs us to be a body made up of different parts working together to reveal His glory.
So when I finally realised that learning to rely on Him for my daily plans was what He was wanting, I started to walk in the freedom He came to give me!

And now? Now my weekly planner doesn't get written on as often-only when I need to remember a play date or a swimming lesson time or a Bible study meeting. In fact at times I have to remind myself that I had better write something down incase I forget to go!

I am learning to let My Shepherd lead me alongside the quiet waters. I am learning to put my security in Him!