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!