My focus has obviously shifted this year and my focus has been on setting up our home school life. A part of that has been getting to know other home school moms and figure out who they do things, what is working and what is not.
There are some fun moms doing amazing things with their kids right here in South Africa. So I thought I would push these moms out of the wings and put them centre stage while they share their adventures with us.
I have known Melanie for years, she has 3 kiddos, two gorgeous daughters and the cutest little dude who are all home schooled by Melanie. I love following them because Melanie has a bigger focus on literature than we currently do and her time line is filled with sophisticated readings and art projects.
Introduce yourself – where you stay, how many kids, their ages etc
We live in Edenvale, Gauteng. I have three children: Angie is 8, Emmy is 6, and Rafe is 2. My husband, Jacques, is an actor. We have been homeschooling since August 2015.
Why did you decide to homeschool?
As soon as I learned homeschooling existed, it was always an option in my mind. Then when I was pregnant with Angie, my husband and I started to consider it more seriously. Our faith is important to us, and homeschooling allows us to naturally include it in every part of our lives. We want to be the strongest influence in teaching our children about values and character, instead of peer influence. The news reports about school violence, sexual abuse, bullying, as well as the falling standard of public education, also nudged us more firmly in the direction of homeschooling. We are not anti-public school, but we believe that home education is the better path for our family.
Are you following a set curriculum?
For the first year of our homeschool journey, I used a mish-mash of ideas that were very much school-at-home. Then I learned about Charlotte Mason, and her philosophy of education struck a chord in me. The more I read about her ideas, the more I knew that this was the way forward for us. We follow Ambleside Online, which is a free Charlotte Mason-based curriculum, and I also try to include South African history, literature and geography where I can.
For maths, we use Math-U-See, which I love for two reasons. First, the mastery approach (as opposed to the spiral approach of CAPS). Second, because the actual lessons are on DVD so Teacher Steve does the actual teaching. Maths was never my favourite subject at school, and it was important for me to find a good maths curriculum because I want my children to enjoy the subject.
What is or has been your biggest challenge homeschooling?
Running out of bookshelves. Also, not finding a book I want locally and having to find someone to bring it back from the US. I also need to figure out the best of way of keeping track of our home library so that I don’t end up buying duplicates. (Bookworm problems.)
Rafe was born our first year of homeschooling, and I had a horrible pregnancy. I was so sick the first trimester that school didn’t really happen. And I had such bad ligament pain in my third trimester that I couldn’t walk a lot. And then, in 2017 I ended up having emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. Since then, I’ve struggled with low iron levels, fatigue and depression. But it’s worth it.
I have also learned that I am not the patient person I used to think I was. Someone once said that homeschooling is like holy sandpaper, and it’s so true! My own character is being refined through this, and it’s not always a pleasant experience.
What has been or is the best thing about your homeschooling journey so far?
Since we started adopting Charlotte Mason’s methods, I’ve discovered a wealth of amazing books that I’d never heard of before. (And to think I called myself a bookworm!) It has also been wonderful to see how the girls have made connections between things they’ve read about and everyday life. I love that I get to learn all these great things right alongside them.
One of the things that drew to me Charlotte Mason is her emphasis on including the riches in the curriculum from the very beginning. So we are doing composer study, picture study, folk songs, poetry, nature study and Shakespeare in our morning time, and it is the best part of the day.
What is your absolute favourite resource?
Ambleside Online. There are links to articles about how to implement Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, links to other online resources, and an active forum for AO users. I also can’t stop recommending Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s book “For The Children’s Sake” to anyone who shows even the most vague interest in homeschooling.
What is the one thing you can’t do without?
My Kindle. As long as we have books to read, we’re good.
What has surprised you the most about this journey?
How much I don’t know. I was a good student at school, got full colours for academics, but I don’t actually remember much of what I learned. I feel a bit cheated that I never got the kind of education my children are (but then I remember that I am getting it now). I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy learning as I’m teaching.
One piece of advice you would give to a family considering homeschooling?
Read “For The Children’s Sake.” Don’t rush into buying a curriculum. Take a few months to research the different styles and philosophies. Get to know your children. Go for nature walks. Read aloud to them. Read Help! I want to homeschool but I don’t know where to start. And relax, you are more capable than you think.