10 July 2017
In June 1997, Fair Lady magazine published an article about homeschooling. It featured 3 South African families, including a picture of Karin van Oostrum (manager of the Pestalozzi Trust) and her little girls, whom I remember were wearing matching dresses.
It was the catalyst that changed my life. Every year around this time I look back with amazement at how it happened and how much has happened since.
In May 1997, my husband and I had just obtained custody of his 5 year old daughter and she had been attending a local preschool in her Grade R year. We were thinking of taking her out of preschool for a while before she started grade 1, to bond as a family and to give her back the little bit of childhood freedom that remained before she was due to start Grade 1. She had been in full daycare for most of her short life.
In the June/July holidays of 1997, I picked up the June issue of Fair Lady magazine at the check out till at our local shop because it mentioned homeschooling on the front cover. At that stage, home education had only just been legalised under the new regime in SA, so it was almost unheard of.
The article ended with a link to an American website about homeschooling, which was the departure point for my online homeschooling research.
One website linked to another and so on and after a couple of weeks of surfing the net using a dial-up connection, I had found answers to all my questions, worries and doubts.
- How would I cope,
- What about matric?,
- What about socialisation?
- What about if I had babies? etc.
I shared the idea with my husband and we decided to use the remaining 6 months of the year to try it out. It went well, so we continued and I also fell pregnant with my first baby soon after.
Skip to 2002, I’d been homeschooling for about 5 years, using American products and so I decided to teach my step-daughter about South Africa using local literature and resources. To save myself from having to redo all the preparation for my two younger children, I started writing down the lessons I created.
Then via an online homeschooling email group, I teamed up with a fellow homeschool mom, Wendy Young, who had the same vision and we created our own homegrown South African unit study curriculum – Footprints On Our Land, for ages 7-14.
Since we both had younger children, we then created Little Footprints for ages 4-8 and a third programme, Footprints into the 21st Century for young teens. All this was done via emails at night after 7pm when dial-up was cheaper!
Voila! We were now homeschool curriculum suppliers. Footprints On Our Land was born.
In the meantime, between 1998 – 2010, I had six children, who have only ever been homeschooled. During that time, I created ABC Fun & 1-2-3, a preschool homeschooling guide and www.shirleys-preschool-activities.com to help other moms with little ones.
In 2014 and 2015, I authored the first commercially published parent books on homeschooling in SA and I launched two series of 6 online webinars each online to help new homeschooling parents.
I also decided to start offering personal consultations to parents wanting to start homeschooling or needing advice.
Thanks to my book publishers’ excellent marketing efforts, I have subsequently been interviewed on numerous radio stations, appeared on Afternoon Express on SABC 3 in April 2016 and I am regularly interviewed by journalists writing about home education in the media.
In August 2016, I was offered the opportunity to become a content provider for GED South Africa and I launched Online GED, to offer the study programme for students preparing to write the GED® tests as a matric equivalent.
My eldest daughter wrote her GED®, grade 12 equivalent, finishing at age 17, in 2016 and has various other accolades to her credit. My second child will finish the GED® later this year.
My middle daughter is in Grade 8, my next son in Grade 6, my youngest daughter in Grade 4 and my youngest son is probably about grade 2.
It is 20 years since we started this adventure and we still have another 10-12 years to go before my youngest ‘graduates’.
…but I look back with awe, believing that God used the article in Fair Lady to trigger all this. I thank my close homeschooling friends (especially Wendy Young) for their support and my husband, Riaan and my children, who have shared the ups and downs of this journey alongside me.
Having experienced first hand the many benefits of home education, my passion is to encourage others at whatever stage of they journey they are on and to fight for the freedom to home educate, to live on unfettered in South Africa, for future generations.