Getting started with Ambleside Online

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I like setting everything out, getting it ready for the new year and having a mental ‘to-do’ list and plan of action. So I usually do all my planning for the new year during the December holidays. It’s not set in stone and can change as needed, but I like having a solid plan to work from.

This is how I do it:

  1. Print out a blank calendar for the coming year.
  2. Go to AO’s curriculum page, download the 36-week schedule (I always use the detailed one) and print that out (6 pages- 2 per term)
  3. Go to the Book List for the year. Download the books that are free (I like using the Archive website). Also read through the whole page quickly to get an overview of what to expect for the year.
  4. Download a few of the free reads from Librivox to listen to in the car or while busy with stuff around the house.
  5. Download some paintings (I like doing 6 or so per artist)
  6. Download some of the composer’s music (I like using Tubidy because the toddler likes looking at the videos!)
  7. Get a proper poetry collection (or 3!) and make sure the term’s poet features in it.
  8. Get a collection of Shakespeare’s works (you could get resources from Archive, but I prefer my physical book for this.)
  9. Buy all the writing books, stationary, etc. needed for the year (I’m busy compiling a PDF for you 🙂 )
  10. Also try and get a good Science reference book, birdwatching book and field guide for the area.

 

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So, you’ve decided to start Homeschooling. Now what?

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1. Firstly, you need to decide whether or not you’re going to register with the Department of Education (DOE). We choose not to, for a great multitude of reasons (I’ll do another blog post focused on that) and you’re not legally required to do so.

2. Decide on what type of curriculum you want to use (What would work best for YOUR family? Boxed/eclectic/CAPS/CM/Waldorf/classical/unschooling (a blog post on those also coming up!)?

3. Buy/download your chosen curriculum.

4. De-school yourself and the kiddos! Play, discover, learn, LIVE! And most importantly, FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT ‘SCHOOL”!  😉

Enjoy this journey. Don’t stress about it.

Yes, you’re not a teacher. You don’t have a college degree. So what?

You are a parent. That already makes you more than qualified to teach your own child (And for everything else (higher grade Math and Science) there’s a tutor!).

What a Homeschooling day looks like for us.

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We usually wake up at 05:00 or 06:00, depending on if we must drop Kevin off at work or not. Then the kiddos watch Expresso (mostly because Amber checks the news and weather! She also loves the cooking inserts) and play while I cook breakfast.

At around 07:00 we eat breakfast.

At 08:00 our school day starts.

We do Morning Time first:

We read from the Bible and pray. Then we go through our memory work, songs and French.

After this, we do the loop (things that change every day- Science, History, Character Study, etc.)

Then the kids do their individual work (Math, Grammar, Dictation and individual reading work).

We finish school at 13:00. We also have a 10min. break every hour to make sure the kids stay focused (eg. 09:00 till 09:10 break, and again from 10:00 till 10:10)

After school is finished, we eat lunch.

Amber has extra murals on Tuesday and Thursday from 14:00 till 15:00. When she doesn’t have anything on, the kiddos just play. Or we go and visit grandma. Or go to the park…

We then pick up Kevin from work around 15:00. On the way to him, we normally listen to the extra reading books as audio books. We’re currently busy with The Secret Garden, and loving it!

We might also sing some songs and practice memory work in the car. On the way back home we usually discuss current affairs with him.

When we get home, the kids usually play outside until suppertime.

We eat around 18:00, go for a quick walk and bath the kids. Gogga then goes to bed.

Amber will usually watch the news with us and go to bed around 19:00.

This is a typical day for us.

 

Every day is different, though. If we feel we want to spend the day at the pool, park or museum, we do exactly that. We simply schedule what we ‘missed’ for another day. That’s the beauty of homeschooling: the flexibility.

We do try to fit everything that’s scheduled in on the AO schedule into every week, as it gets a bit overwhelming when you fall too far behind.

Overall, it’s more of a daily flow instead of a schedule. And that suits me perfectly!

Kombucha~The What, How and Why…

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What is it?

Kombucha is a slightly bubble fermented sweet tea drink made with the use of a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria). It uses the sugar and the caffeine in the tea to produce probiotics, which are simply amazing for a multitude of reasons!

Why do we need probiotics?

Probiotics help with liver detoxification, better digestion, increased energy, weight loss and nutrient assimilation, reducing yeast (candida), improved moods and increased pancreatic function. They’re also good for your gut because they put ‘good bacteria’ into your digestive tract. These ‘good’ bacteria help to keep you healthy by killing off the ‘bad’ bacteria and this boosts your immune system in turn.

How do you make it?

You can do the first ferment (F1) only, or a first and second ferment (F2).

To start, I use this recipe:             ¼ cup sugar

1 litre water

2 tea bags (It’s recommended to use a mixture of black and Rooibos tea, but I’ve successfully used only Rooibos before)

(It’s recommended to use a mixture of black and Rooibos tea, but I’ve successfully used only Rooibos before)

I usually do a big batch of 4 litres at a time. I put the sugar, teabags and a bit of boiling water in a 1 litre jug and leave it until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has cooled. I then top this up with cold water, and add it to the big container. I then simply add 3 more jugs of cold tap water.

Add your SCOBY to this mixture.

If it’s your starting batch, leave it for a few weeks to ferment. Various factors influence how long it takes to become drinkable, so keep tasting it. It’s not an exact science, but rather something you do by ‘feel’.

If you’re just ‘topping up’ your continuous system, leave it for a day or 2 to ‘mix’ and then drink. You could bottle it at this stage.

*You might find that your bottles of decanted booch (F1) make little baby SCOBYs. Don’t throw these away, but keep them in a SCOBY hotel to bless out again later. If you have too many in the hotel, you can mix some into your compost heap!

*The first ferment booch doesn’t really go ‘off’, just sour (because  the SCOBY keeps ‘eating’ the sugar). It’s still drinkable, but not very enjoyable! I normally pour half the container of sour booch out and top it up with the new mixture.  You can use sour booch as shampoo, soil fertilizer or a base for salad dressings!

If you want to do a second ferment (F2) to add some flavour to your booch, you have to wait until it’s drinkable, then pour some into bottles and add fruit or spice to it.

*I use glass swing-top bottles and ‘burp’ them every day. Remember, you’re going to have a buildup of gas, and your bottles could explode if you don’t let that gas out.

Leave the bottles for one week, strain and decant into the bottles again. This should be enjoyed quite quickly, as it doesn’t last as long as a F1.

*I use a continuous system, which basically means that I use a big 15 litre container (we use a plastic bottle with a tap that they sell at the reverse osmosis water suppliers, even though glass is better. The plastic works fine for us).

*Make sure that your bottle is clean, and stays sealed. You don’t want any dodgy mould or bacteria getting in and affecting your booch! This could be fatal.

*Pregnant and nursing mothers need to start off very slowly. It’s preferable for your body to become used to it before you fall pregnant.

*If it makes you feel bad at any stage, stop drinking it!

* Alcoholics should be aware that it contains a minute amount of alcohol because of the fermentation process.

*Kids can have booch in very low doses.The key is to start off with very little (kids and adults) and later work up. I drink about a cup per day, and the toddler has half a cup. She’s been drinking it since she was about 1 year old.

*The key is to start off with very little (kids and adults) and later work up. I drink about a cup per day, and the toddler has half a cup. She’s been drinking it since she was about 1 year old.

A few other things you can do with kombucha:

  1. Make ice lollies.
  2. Use it instead of soda.
  3. Mix it with fruit juice or add it to smoothies.
  4. Marinade meat.

Why we choose to use Charlotte Mason’s teaching approach in our Homeschool (and Ambleside Online as curriculum)

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When it comes to homeschooling methods/philosophies, I’d recommend Charlotte Mason’s any day. Specifically, Ambleside Online, which is a free curriculum put together by a group of amazing volunteers. I use AO because it’s the most perfectly aligned with what Charlotte used herself in her PNEU schools.

Different things work for different people, that’s a fact. But her ideas speak to my heart…

Charlotte believed that Bible study built character, taught children about history and gave them a moral compass. It also taught them memory work, grammar and a love for poetry. An appreciation for Art and beauty is carefully interwoven into everything we do. Science is God-based. It is interwoven with Bible Studies and Art.

All the subject matter is based on living ideas. On awakening each child’s natural curiosity and love of learning. The curriculum is practical, teaching kids applicable things. Not abstract ideas they will never actually use, but must cram in to pass a test. It’s not crammed full of ‘fillers’ just to keep kids busy. The focus is on broadening their views of the world, not merely to keep them out from underneath your feet!

With CM, you work according to your child’s own pace. If they’re a bit behind, you put them a year or two ‘behind’ and work up to it. If they’re gifted in a certain area, you move them forward. Remember, AO is very advanced, so a child that is used to the public-school system will take a while to get used to the subject matter.

Amber started 2016 in Year 4 with all her subjects except for Math. That she started with Year 3 after working the whole December holiday to catch up all the Math she was behind in. In 2015 she was in Grade 2 in the mainstream school. She’s now busy with Year 4 Math, and can take as long as she needs. We don’t have to rush to meet a deadline. If we want to do hopscotch on a specific day for Math, then we do that!

We also have the freedom to add on as we choose. Next year I’m planning on adding in South African History. I’m planning on adding in Afrikaans again, as well as Latin. We started with French this year, and plan on expanding on that too. Amber has shown an interest in musical instruments and endangered animals, so we’ll continue to encourage that passion. See where I’m going with this? It’s interest led learning, but not unschooling.

I believe in the idea behind unschooling. BUT if we didn’t do folk songs, specific science readings, French, etc. this year, we never would’ve discovered how much of a gift Amber has for them. So I am very happy we didn’t go the unschooling route.

Furthermore, Universities prefer homeschooled children. Most people are shocked by this, because ‘homeschoolers are not used to a classroom environment, don’t know how to work well with others, are socially alienated’. No, my dear. Actually, they’re not.

Homeschoolers learn how to think for themselves. They learn how to get along with people from various backgrounds, with various ages and cultures. And, because they’re exposed to literature of exceptional quality, they function on a higher cognitive level (here I’m specifically referring to the AO curriculum).

We have a new amazing group of homeschooling families in our area that join us on excursions, Nature Walks and gatherings. Amber has made many new friends like this.

With CM, kids learn without noticing that they’re learning. Dictation and copywork teach them spelling, punctuation and grammar from a very young age, while instilling good handwriting/penmanship in them. History has landed Amber some new penpals in America, on whom she’ll also practice writing letters. At the post office, she had to help me work out how many stamps we needed, and how much they’d cost (Math). She watches the news, so is aware of what’s going on in the world. We recently had long conversations about politics, the American elections, corruption and what makes a good leader. She was praying fervently for her new friends in Florida when the storms hit them a few weeks ago. She has been watching the weather forecast and has shown compassion for the people that were swept off in this week’s floods in Gauteng. We also spoke about first aid and what to do in emergencies like that.

See, it’s a living education. A thing that lives and breathes and grows. Not a dry, dusty old textbook full of useless facts and without a soul.

A CM education is timeless. Even though it was written almost a hundred years ago, it is just as relevant today as it was then. Morals never go out of style. We learn that History and Science changes, yet it really stays the same. One has to question, test and objectively seek the truth in all cases, because what the ‘experts’ say today, may change again tomorrow.

This year, Amber read Plutarch, Shakespeare (midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Othello), Animal Farm, high quality poetry (Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Browning and Lord Alfred Tennyson) and Age of Fable. She can reason far above her age level. She has intelligent debates with grownups about morals, politics and religion. She thinks, and reasons, and questions things for herself. She tests things to find out if they are true. She doesn’t just accept what others tell her.

We want Amber to get a GED or Cambridge ‘matric’ one day so that she can, if she wants to, go overseas to study. And if she decides to go and do missionary work in Africa, she has her piece of paper that proves that she finished ‘matric’. All bases are covered.

The most important thing, I think, is that she’s having fun. She’s enjoying every minute of school! Where, in the past, she’d come up with all kinds of excuses and ‘illnesses’ not to go to school, she now comes to ‘class’ even when she’s sick. She wouldn’t miss it for the world! Oh, and because she enjoys learning so much, she has collected almost all of the Pick ‘n Pay Animal Cards (she still needs the lion!) and enjoys watching National Geographic on TV. She would also like to visit Greece, America and Canada one day to see if they look the way she thinks they do from the books.

As a parent and tutor I have personally learnt so much through our CM education thus far. I have been so immensely blessed. I’ve learnt more about myself and my kids than I ever thought possible.

I told Amber a while ago that it feels like we were zombies, just going through the motions, but this year has awakened us and we are finally fully present and free.

I’ve grown closer to God and my family.

I’ve read books I’ve never even heard of.

I learnt a new language!

I’ve grown to sit back and enjoy good poetry.

It feels like I’ve lost out on so many years when it comes to my own education. That’s sad, and I’ve mourned and moved past it. Now, I am grateful that I can give my children a fully alive, beautiful and glorious education most children can only dream of…

Why Homeschooling really is the only option.

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We are seeing suicide and depression rates skyrocket among the youngsters (high school as well as primary level children). This is mostly due to bullying and stress over marks that aren’t ‘good enough’. Parents (and teachers) are expecting the impossible from children, and the constant competition to achieve ‘the best’ of everything is considered normal. And our children are buckling under the load…

Almost every second child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and put on some form of medication to help ‘manage’ it. Children are expected to sit still and keep focused on dreary and dead textbooks or drawling teachers while they should be playing outside and breathing in fresh air.

Peer pressure has also reached scary new levels. When our parents had to worry about us skipping school or smoking a cigarette behind the Geography class, we now need to worry about sexting, cyber bullying, rapes happening in school and primary age children addicted to drugs (over-the-counter and illegal). Not to even mention all the inappropriate information our kids are exposed to… Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my 9-year-old daughter exposed to pornography on a friend’s phone or pre-pubescent boys thinking about sex instead of holding hands…

Now, I’m not saying NONE of those things can happen when you home school. Don’t get me wrong. But you can have more of a say in what your child gets exposed to.

We have a huge problem in South Africa now: we have too many overqualified people and not enough jobs. And with BEE mixed in, it makes finding a good job pretty damn impossible. We need more entrepreneurs! Free-thinkers that will help create jobs and shape the economy of tomorrow. It’s our jobs as parents to help prepare our children for that future. And, as a bonus, Universities, colleges and employers prefer students that can work independently and ‘think outside the box’. Just look at Richard Branson (Virgin) and Google’s unorthodox interviews.

For example: Amber (my daughter) is now 9 years old. Beginning of this year, 2016, we took her out of the school system and she started doing MMA. It’s developed into her biggest passion. She practices almost every day. She constantly talks about it. And because we home school, she doesn’t get homework, and has time (for the first time ever) to pursue her dream. She dreams of going to UFC one day. And we are helping her achieve that. If she decides, in a few years, that she rather wants to become a missionary in Asia, we’ll support her fully in that.

Just to clarify: teachers aren’t to blame for all of this. They try their best. And some of them really, really care. But how much can one teacher truly accomplish with a classroom of 30 children? The system (based on the Industrial Revolution factory model) is BROKEN. It doesn’t encourage individuality, but conformity. It needs every child to be the same as the next, and when your special child doesn’t conform, it spits your baby out as an ‘irregularity’. We, as people, were made to stand out. To be individual.

With home schooling, you have more freedom.

You get to choose the time you spend on ‘school’. This means your kids have more time for extra murals, where they get the opportunity to discover and pursue their passions. If you need to travel for tournaments (or even for an out-of-season holiday!) you are free to do that. If your child is sick, they can spend the day in bed watching Animal Planet instead of worrying about missing schoolwork. (Amber ‘does school’ even when she’s sick. She loves it so much!). The best part is that if your child is a bit ‘behind’ in certain areas, or specially gifted, you can adjust the pace to fit their needs.

You get to choose the curriculum that works for YOUR family and YOUR budget (ranging from oh-my-word-are-you-SERIOUS! to FREE). Yes, you can home school for free. You didn’t know that, did you?

You also get to exercise some control over the friends your child makes. You can arrange socials with children with like-minded parents. With morals that align with yours. And you know where your kids hang out (especially important with teenagers)!

Therefore, home schooling is the only option for us. It’s affordable, allows our kids to grow at their own pace, brings us closer together as a family, their education levels are way above that of public school children and I know I’m raising children that are ready for the future!

I mean, where else will your tween learn how to quote Shakespeare 😉