Homeschooling in Botswana

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

My name is Lynn Jones. I am married to Steve, have a stepdaughter, Daniella, who is 22 years old and stays with us. I have a son, Jacques, from a previous marriage; he is 21 years old, and also stays with us. The youngest is Patrick; he is 12 years old and he is the one homeschooling. We all stay together with my mum on the same property.

We live in a town called Maun in Botswana. It is a very busy tourist destination on the edge of the Okavango Delta, which attracts a lot of visitors, with plenty wildlifethe ideal place to raise children.

Steve works in a camp called Jao Concession.He is away from home for six weeks, then comes home for two weeks. It was difficult at first, but now I am used to it. I work full day in town as a bookkeeper/accounts. We also run an NGO called Feed a Child Botswana, where we feed over 100 children a day on a weekly basis, as well as some elderly people who can’t care for themselves.

Sunrise over the Thamalakane River in Maun

How long have you been home schooling?

We have only just started homeschool, so it is all new to us with quite a bit of challenges, but we are getting there.

Why did you decide to home school?

We don’t have much choice where it comes to schools: two international schools, one private school, and the rest are government schools where most of the local children go.

The standard of education has dropped considerably over the last two years. Patrick is a year away from high school, and we would have to send him away to boarding school, which we do not want to do as we would only see him twice a year.

We decided to have a go at homeschooling and see how it goes.

Aerial view of the Okavango Delta from the air: you can only get to the camps by plane.

What style of home schooling does your family follow?

We believe that it should be a structured syllabus. 

Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?

We have no philosophy but we believe in oneonone learning, as Patrick seemed to get behind at normal school and no one cared if he understood the work or not.

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?

We chose Wolsey Hall Oxford. It is a British syllabus, with text books and loads of online tutoring and help. As we don’t have museums and other places to visit besides the Okavango Delta, where we go for little breaks, I have to rely on the internet so he can see what is out there in the wide world,and broaden his knowledge on what’s out there. We also watch a lot of Animal Planet and National Geographic programmes, or any other educational programmes that come up on the tv.

When Patrick completes his KS3 course in two years time, he will then move on to the IGSE course, also through Wolsey Hall, which is recognised by many universities in South Africa and Botswana, should he choose to study further.

Patrick and me

Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

As my husband works away from home and I have a full time job, we have two ladies (tutors) who come to the house Monday to Thursday to help Patrick with his school work, and on a Sunday I help Patrick complete his assignments which are due every week. He has five subjects, and every week one subject is due as an assignment and gets marked by Wolsey Hall tutors, and the results get sent back to us.

What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?

Patrick gets up at 7 a.m., has breakfast, and starts preparing for his lessons which start at 8 a.m. He first reads a Bible story and prays before he starts. He has sections of 30 to 40 minutes at a time with a 5to 10minute break in between. He spends about two hours on one subject, then moves on to another subject until 1 p.m. 

He does English, geography, and history with one tutor on Monday and Wednesday, and math and science with the other tutor on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday is usually a day off on condition that he has completed the work schedule for the week. In the afternoon he has an hour of homeworkwhere he answers questions on the relevant work he did that morning, with additional written math homework. 

The rest of the afternoon he usually plays with his friends until I get home at 5 p.m.We have dinner and revise the homework together, then get ready for bed, which is around 8 pm.

On Sunday morning he goes horse riding with his friends, and in the afternoon we sit down together and work through his assignment that’s due for the week. We usually have to hand them in on Tuesday.

Aerial view of the Okavango Delta

What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?

It is still early days for us as we only started on 9 January 2017. I am spending more time with Patrick in the evenings when we go through the homework for that day. I feel safer that he is at home and that he has the oneonone tutoring available to him now, and that he doesn’t get left behind if he is not understanding a topic. When Patrick went to normal school, I didn’t seem to spend as much time with him as I do now. It is bringing us closer to each other as we continue our new journey.

I am also pleased that my mum can spend more time with Patrick in the afternoons with a bit of Bible study, as he wants to be baptised. We were never able to do this as normal school came out late in the afternoon, and he was always exhausted when he got home. So, homeschooling has changed that for usto be able to spend more time studying the Bible too, not only going to church.

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

It is a more advanced curriculum than what is practiced here in Botswana government and private school, but we believe that Patrick will benefit more from it, and hopefully one day he will thank us for making this change for him.

Sunset over the Thamalakane River

Meet Tonya and her Family

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

My name is Tonya Dietrich, and my children are Shelby (daughter, 12 years old), and Sidney (son, 10 years old).  Shelby is in sixth grade and Sidney is in fourth grade. I am a single mom that works full-time from home, and we live in Oregon, USA. We have a cat, a Bernese mountain dog, and a beta fish.

How long have you been home schooling?

I have only been homeschooling my children since November 28, 2016. Previously they attended a Seventh-day Adventist junior academy since preschool.

Why did you decide to home school?

Both my children had experienced some bullying activity at their old school, and in early November 2016, my daughter was playing on her own on the playground, and two boys with a jump rope ran up to her, called her names, and began running around her wrapping the rope around her waist. She told them to leave her alone, but they did not listen. The kids were not allowed to scream on the playground, and the teacher on duty was a ways away from her and not looking; so, since the boys wouldn’t let her go, she punched the closest boy in the forehead to get away. She was expelled from school for punching, which I agreed with, but the boys — who later bragged to another student at the school that the reason one was punched by Shelby was that they were planning to tie her to a fence post — did not receive any punishment other than to write an “I’m sorry” letter to Shelby.  Neither letter held any empathy and seemed forced. When the school refused to listen to my daughter (and that this wasn’t the first time; a similar situation had happened where the victim was punished, but not the bullies), then I knew another alternative had to happen. Thus, we started homeschooling.

What style of home schooling does your family follow?

I’m not sure what this means as I’m so new to the whole homeschooling thing, but my children are enrolled in a public online school that has a lot of structure and a required one-hour online class every weekday. 

Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?

As long as my kids are learning and I can see their progress, then I’m happy and so are they.

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?

My children are enrolled in Oregon Virtual Academy, which is a public online school affiliated with K12. They have their curriculum specified, and send laptops and printers to each student, all the various books, parent guides, science project materials, etc., for free. At this point being so new to this situation, this was recommended by two friends of mine, and through lots of prayer we enrolled. The low cost was a huge factor, and the fact that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out curriculum and actually teaching was a must since I work full-time at home and am a single parent. I’m not always thrilled with the local public schools here, but this school so far has proven very good, and my children have two great teachers that work with them and myself. My children also participate in our local Pathfinder group, so I feel that between church and Pathfinders we are getting some Biblical teaching in too.

Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

My children actually have school teachers that they can contact with questions, etc., and I’m considered their “learning coach.” My daughter doesn’t really need much assistance as she is in sixth grade and is pretty good at managing her time. My son needs more time and instruction/help, but still it is less than me trying to be sole teacher. I’m the only one that helps with the schooling because the relationship with the children’s father is not amicable at all, and moving books, equipment, etc. between houses is not practical.

What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?

Frequently both kids are starting school about 8:30 a.m., working on various assignments in their daily plan, and then they have a live class for an hour starting at 9:30 a.m. The kids then take a break and do some PE, either kicking or punching our Wave master kicking bag, shoveling snow (we had a lot last December/early January), or other activities. After a break, they go back and work on classes, and I will periodically check in with them to see if there are any questions, etc. My son will come into my home office and ask questions or request some time to study with him, and I can flex my work in order to help him get his studies done. They generally work on school work approximately five hours a day, with PE breaks in between, or walking the dog with me. This may seem a long time for the kids to work on projects, but they do take frequent breaks, and I check in on them frequently as well. It is a system that helps me also get my work done too.

What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?

So far we all seem to love it. The flexible schedule has been so helpful, and we even take homework with us when we go to doctor appointments, etc., so that we are getting things accomplished even away from the computers. The kids said that being able to go to the bathroom whenever they wanted/needed was a big improvement, since their classrooms previously didn’t always allow bathroom breaks when there were things to be covered for the whole class. My kids are no longer bullied and they are happier. They do not have evening homework that would last all evening until bedtime. Instead we all can cook meals together and get house chores done and then read together before bed.  

I find it harder to schedule appointments for doctor visits, etc., because of the live class that they need to attend.  But, appointment scheduling is always hard when I’m the only one that takes the children to any doctor, so I have to just work around the times they are with their father, the live class, and my work appointments. 

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

I never dreamed that I’d have to homeschool. I’m not a teacher type; instead, I’m an accountant. I never thought I’d have the patience or be able to hold it all together. I’m still afraid that I might not be able to hold it all together with all that is on my plate. But, I feel that this change was necessary and needed and that it was guided by God. When I was enrolling my kids online in this new school, I received a call from another friend who immediately recommended this school, even though she did not know I was in the process of enrolling both my kids there. So, I feel it was a God-send. I don’t know if they will stay with homeschooling next year or even with the same school, as there are so many options. However, what I do know is that God is with us in this journey, and He’s not going to leave us. Wherever he wants my children, I want them there too. So, we are open to His leading, and are so thankful that He’s brought us where we are presently. Lastly, Oregon had some bad icy weather for about a month last winter, and many schools were out six to nine days of school right after Christmas break. However, my kids did not miss any school, and I feel blessed that this was one of the silver linings of this transition. Praise the Lord!

Meet the Merry Moss Family

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

My name is Sarah Moss and I’m a single mom of two boys, ages 11 and 13. We live in Alberta, Canada. 

How long have you been home schooling?

I started homeschooling my eldest in kindergarten, and he’s in grade 7 now. My youngest attended two-thirds of a year at the local Adventist academy before I pulled him out to homeschool him as well.

Why did you decide to home school?

My sons have special needs, particularly my eldest. I intuitively did not feel he was ready or able to be sent to school at that young age. When he was born, I felt God speak to my heart that my son was given to me and it was my responsibility to raise him, not to send him to daycare or school. 

What style of home schooling does your family follow?

Our style of home schooling is passion driven, and we do a lot of unschooling as it suits the boys special needs.  

Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?

I think the closest I come to having a philosophy is that if I can tap into the children’s passions, they will independently learn everything they need to succeed in life.

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?

I use Saxon and Khan Academy for math, and Explode the Code for my youngest and Daily Grams for my oldest for language arts. Outside of that, we use very little specific curriculum; instead I make up our own lesson plan for the boys. It’s quite an eclectic style with pieces from many different places. We use a lot of video documentaries for science and social studies and field trips to round out the information. I’ve found that the more I can help them see the real life application, the more easily they learn the work.

Are you the primary “teacher,” or do your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

I am the primary teacher, with the exceptions being when I register them in specific classes, field trips, or co-ops.

What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?

They work on their math and language arts beginning at 9 a.m., which can take about one and a half to two hours. Lately they have asked that they take turns doing their work to reduce the distraction of the sibling and we are trying that. So far, it seems to be helping each boy move more quickly through their work. In the afternoon we work on other subjects or go on field trips, and in the evening they each do independent reading out loud before bed.

What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?

I think the familial relationships is the thing I love most. The boys have a friendship rarely seen between tween/teen siblings, and they also both have a close relationship with me. I love knowing who my children are and who is in their field of influence, and knowing that if they have a question about anything in life they will come and talk to me about it first. I love that we can specifically address areas they struggle in so they can learn despite any learning disorders. 

The thing I dislike most is the battle. Many days I wish I could take off the teacher hat and just be mom. It’s worth it, though. 

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

I tend to homeschool differently than most other people I know, but it works for my children and that’s all that matters. I think many times there are a lot of societal pressure, expectations, and misinformation around homeschooling. It’s pretty rare to be out with the boys during the day and have a positive response when we say they are homeschooled. People assume it takes enormous amounts of patience, or that you need a certain level of education to be an effective homeschooler. The reality is that parenting does take a LOT of patience; and, there are so many available resources to fit every person’s style of teaching and learning, which makes needing a certain level of education unnecessary. Having said that, not everyone should homeschool either. We need to choose the path that suits our families best and stick with it. What we are used to becomes normal.  

Meet the Friendly Fergusen Family

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

Hi, my name is Julia Ferguson, a stay-at-home, relatively strict, homeschooling Mom. These aren’t my only titles of course, since I am very involved in our local Adventist church with drama presentations, the worship service, and teaching Sabbath School. I am completely blessed in that I have the opportunity to stay home with the kids. For the last few years, I was working outside the home while the boys did their schoolwork. However, their work wasn’t getting done, I was over-committed at church, and I was trying to work 32 hours a week. The extra money and time away from home wasn’t bringing us any closer, so after discussing it with my husband, we decided to have me leave that job and cut back on my responsibilities at church. I am happily married to the wonderfully supportive Tim Ferguson. We have been together 27 years this May, and together we have four amazingly individual children. 

We live in a small city in Washington State and we love it here.  We are on the west side of the mountains so get a bit more rain and in return a very green and beautiful place to live. Washington has some of the easiest homeschooling laws on the books and so makes it extremely easy to homeschool.

Here’s the rest of the family:

Our oldest is Alex — not pictured — and he is 22 and married his school sweetheart, Geovana, on August, 5, 2017. They met in third grade, while I still had Alex in our local Adventist elementary school. He no longer lives at home and graduated our homeschool in 2013. Even though he isn’t living here anymore, we are still very close, and he texts often (and only calls occasionally – sigh). We have some of the most amazing conversations. I am very proud of the man he has become, and adore the woman he married, and truly can’t wait to see where God leads them next. 

Angela is a beautiful and most-of-the-time happy young woman with a some extra challenges of her own. She has Cornelia de Lange syndrome (http://www.cdls-usa.org, if you want to learn more about people with this syndrome). What this means for her is a profound developmental delay, along with quite a few ongoing medical issues. Angela is 21; however, developmentally she is only maybe three, with her most common “age” being about 2 1/2. She is severely anaemic: we have recently dealt with a round of invasive and non-invasive tests to find out why, and the closest theory is she has alpha thalassemia, a permanent disease which will always affect her ability to absorb iron correctly. She has small, fragile red blood cells. On top of that she has severe acid reflux, a mild heart murmur, dental issues, and other behavioural problems for which we have her medicated. I have pulled her out of school early. She was due to graduate in June, but due to the newest health issues it seemed best to keep her out. So, now she is home full-time with the rest of us. This has been our biggest transition so far.

Angela

Aaron is a brilliant and very serious 17-year-old who is far too smart for his mama. His mind seems to work too fast to keep up with, and his ability to understand computer and other technology is amazing. He also has an amazing servant’s heart. He regularly volunteers at church on the sound or tech crew, doing everything from praise team set-up to helping run (tech) bigger full-church plays we put on every year. He is a strictly behind-the-scenes kind of kid. He participates in our youth group, and he is always open to helping anyone who asks. He is a well-liked and respected member of our church.

Aaron

Adam is a funny, sarcastic, and incredibly intelligent 15-year-old young man. He is a social butterfly and loves anything to do with spending time with other people. He is in Boy Scouts and has been the last couple of years. He loves it, and I am incredibly impressed with the gentlemen who run the troop he is in.  Adam also has an incredible servant’s heart and is often found at church helping out. His current “job” is helping with the lights for church. He also plays the violin (I am working on getting him lessons), and has been in the praise band a few times. He likes to dye his hair new colors and express himself openly and honestly, which I support completely. He is also in the youth group and is a well-liked and respected member of our church — blue hair and all.

Adam

How long have you been home schooling?

12 years

Why did you decide to home school?

I found out Alex (fifth grade at the time) had been bullied every day that year in our local church school. He had told the teacher; however, it seemed little had been done about it, and his grades went from A/B to D/F.  He also lost his love for learning. At that time I also found my two youngest, who were in K and pre-K, also were not thriving as I felt they should be. Before I could even consider sending the boys back, I had to pay the school what we owed from the previous year. I prayed about it, asking the Lord to either help me find the money, which he had done every year previously, or help me start homeschooling. I didn’t get the money, and he led me to other families who homeschooled instead, and most of all put the Moore’s books in my lap! And, once we started I never once thought it was a bad decision (teenage angst aside)! Alex actually went to the school’s homeschool program (band and PE and testing) until he graduated eighth grade — which they let him do with their class! The younger two I practiced delayed schooling until they were eight and ten. It completely worked for us. 

What style of home schooling does your family follow?

I guess we are more traditional in that I don’t follow the unschooling practices, but we are pretty eclectic, and I don’t follow a particular style of anything. 

Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?

Yes, whatever works best for that child and that family is what is best to do. The only thing I personally believe has to be in our homeschool is God; because of that, we can work with and get through anything that comes our way. God is our center and the only reason we are successful at anything. 

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?

I use books, textbooks, computer-based learning, and online and co-op learning here. I love Apologia science, but have one who prefers books and another who prefers the computer, so I buy the cd-rom full course and textbooks. I have Teaching Textbooks maths — both learn much better with these — and one uses the book and the other doesn’t. I just found Notgrass History and I am in love. It is Christian based and written by homeschoolers, and the best part is we get literature (with real books) and Bible in the same course. I do extra Bible, but love the time the books take to have them read relevant texts as well force them to think about what they’ve read and how to apply it. Both boys have their own laptops and even email me assignments (saves paper and ink). There have been others over the years, but these are my favorites. My biggest tool is the  http://www.homeschooltracker.com website. It’s not free, but really not expensive and totally a time saver for me. I enter the lesson plans, chores, etc., but in the long run it saves me time, especially now that I have two high-school-aged teens and I’m horrible about tracking — a lesson I learned with Alex, haha. It keeps me accountable and does transcripts! 

Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

 I do all of the teaching except where I can find a good video/computer teacher that is better. Tim will sometimes help with science and math related items.  

What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?

My daughter and I are up by 8:30 a.m. and having our breakfast, and I wake the boys around 9 (if they aren’t up…we’re working on alarm clock skills, hehe). Private devotional time, showers, food, etc., is first for them. We found a family worship time doesn’t work as well for us now that they are older. School is from about 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m., with an hour break for lunch and resting their eyes. Then comes chores, and whoever is on for dinner (Aaron does Friday nights and Adam does Tuesdays) makes dinner. After that we watch some TV, play video games together or read or I knit/crochet. 

What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?

I love the freedom. We can get up, go on field trips, take a vacation, go to the zoo, etc., whenever we want. I also love getting to spend that much time with the boys on a regular basis. Angela is a joy, but she takes a lot of time and energy so this was my time with them. I’d have to think about what I dislike, because I really don’t. I love teaching and I love to share knowledge and have conversations with them. I love being able to talk about whatever we want and how that time allows us more time to help others.  

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

Not really mine, but just a thought that while completely rewarding, homeschooling is hard. It takes time, patience, love, and thought. It takes energy I may not have, and a reliance on God I may not feel all the time. Having said that, I am honestly not sure what I will do when these two graduate as, because of Angela, I won’t be able to work outside the home. Maybe I’ll find some friends (or maybe grands) who want me to homeschool their littles!

Homeschooling from Arizona

Please introduce yourself and your family to us and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

My name is Juliette, and my husband is Victor. We have five kids. Twins age 11, John and Joshua. Jeffrey age 10, Sarah age 4, and Christina age 18 months. We live in Arizona, in the valley. We love to swim, get outdoors, and to read.

How long have you been homeschooling?

We’ve been homeschooling since the boys started learning more formally, whenever that was! Haha! Probably about seven or eight years, more or less. Unless you want to count just learning from life, then it would 11 1/2 years. 😊

Why did you decide to homeschool?

I grew up homeschooled and I didn’t want to expose my children to the philosophies and peer pressures of public schools, and I knew it was the best thing for my kids. My mom taught my brother and sister and me. I had friends who went to church school and public school, and I saw the difference between our lives and theirs, and the attitudes they brought home with them. Even now, I see the difference between my kids’ attitudes and the attitudes of the kids they play with both at church and around the neighborhood.

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

We don’t really follow any particular curriculum, so it’s very relaxed.

Do you have a philosophy about homeschooling?

It must prepare them not only for life here on earth but also for heaven!

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to homeschool, and why?

We have a few workbooks that I picked up at Walmart and Costco for math and basic writing/English/spelling, and then we read some books for different subjects, and life experiences are the rest. Most of my books have come from the library, and more recently I have been getting some really great ones from my business as an Usborne consultant.

Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with homeschooling?

I primarily teach since Victor is gone trucking all week, though he helps some with life lessons when he is home on Sabbath.

What does a typical homeschooling day look like in your home?

We start out with chores (getting dressed making the bed, personal devotions) and worship; then after breakfast we try to have time for workbooks, and then do some music practice, reading, Bible study, and hands-on learning. Then, if it’s hot, we go swimming, or like right now, colder, we go for a walk. Then we fix lunch and while that is cooking, the kids like to watch science programs on Netflix or YouTube. After lunch about 3 p.m. comes cleanup, chores, and laundry. By that time the neighbor kids are home from school, so they go play for awhile. Then, if we didn’t go earlier we sometimes go swimming. After that, we just do some quick pickup in the living room, before having reading time (me reading to them) and worship. 

I should add that the typical day is what we strive for, what I want to see happen. We don’t always hit the mark. Always working toward that, though, and on good days we do make it through.

What do you love the most about homeschooling, and what do you dislike the most?

I love that we can study books or just learn from hands on, and they don’t have to be forced to sit still for hours. We can change things up if it’s not going so well. Also, it’s cheap!