Lynette is a homeschooler using the Clonard curriculum in Madagascar since 2014. This is her very interesting story:
“My husband (Dries) and I moved to Madagascar in 1999. We came to Madagascar as missionaries and the education of children in general has always been very close to our hearts. We moved to the island of Nosy Be which lies north-west of mainland Madagascar. The island measures only 30 by 20km, yet has a population of more than 100 000 people. Many children don’t go to school and the level of education is very poor. We started a little Malagasy school and there are 160 children and 13 teachers. The subjects are mostly in Malagasy and French.
A friend of mine who is British, has three children: Mike, Thomas and Alice. Mike and Thomas used to go to the French school, but decided to switch to an English curriculum. So I was asked if I could take over their education. It was a big decision. The children were not fluent in English and in different grades. I realized that they were also not on the level where they should be. It was a challenge, but I knew that they needed help.
The children’s father built an extra classroom at our existing school. We have come to love our classroom and I was blessed with hard working and diligent students and this was very soon reflected in their results.”
We asked Lynette a couple more questions:
Q – What made you decide to homeschool these children?
I like the idea of being able to plan our timetable and lessons according to the needs of my students. It is very personal and ideal to touch all aspects of a child’s life and development. Alice started as a second grader and is in Grade 6 this year and I feel very privileged to share this new teenage phase with her and to be able to guide her to the best of my ability. We are free to discuss life problems at any time and are not bound by a strict system. However, I find that the Clonard curriculum also satisfies my need for order and goal setting.
Q – Do you do everything yourself or do you make use of tutor support?
I use a tutor for the boys’ French teaching and my husband teaches Technology. We have volunteers from different countries from time to time and I put them to work to help out. I think that the experience benefits all of us and they have skills that enrich my students. Most of our volunteers come from America and Germany and because we live in a relatively isolated village, this makes us less conscious of this fact.
Q – What do you do to provide socialization for your kids – is this necessary?
We are extremely privileged to live on a beautiful tropical island and most of our outdoor activities have something to do with the ocean and nature in general. The kids also have their circle of friends and they do things together. There are no malls, cinemas or formal entertainment, but we go hiking, quad biking, swimming and snorkelling. We have a scouting programme at our Malagasy school and Alice is a part of that. She also joins the art classes which gives her more interaction with children of her age.
Q – Do you follow the same style and programme for each child or does each require a unique approach?
I think that I pretty much stick to a style of teaching, but the kids have different strengths and weaknesses and I try to approach those in a unique way. Each one of them has a slightly different programme which enables me to spend personal time with them every day. Our days are very busy, so following a programme is important so that we are able to be accountable and be sure that we covered all the work. I allow for their different learning styles which is challenging, because they are all different.
Q – What do your kids think about homeschooling versus mainstream school?
They were apprehensive in the beginning and said that it was not a “real school”. I am happy to say that they have changed their minds about that. The boys do miss school with their friends sometimes, but we live in such an isolated place that there are no other options for an English school.
Q – Where does the work take place – what does your classroom look like?
Our classroom has a bamboo floor, Ravinala palm wood for walls and palm leaves on the roof. We call it the “Pilling hut”, but we find it very cosy and it suits our needs. We have electricity, but no running water and water is drawn from the well on a daily basis.
Q – Tell us about a typical school day in your household?
We start school at 7:30am. The kids use the local transport, because they live about 8 km away. We start our day with Bible reading and prayer. There is a 30 minute break at 10 and lunch at 12. We bring lunch from home and enjoy it together. We start back at 1pm until 3pm. The weather is very hot and humid and at the moment it is the rainy season which affects our schedule. The roads turn into rivers of mud and getting to school is sometimes tricky or impossible. We have to work a little on a Saturday when we see that we fall behind.
Q – What is the secret of your success?
I have to say that faith and hard work go together. My students know that when we work, we work flat out and when we relax, we can all enjoy that. A caring heart for my students carries me through all the hours of preparation.
Q – What do you do for downtime?
The kids have their own downtime. We do many things together though – we enjoy going hiking and we love sailing, so my husband and I take them along.
Q – What is your greatest challenge/s in homeschooling?
Finding enough hours in the day…..no seriously, it is hard work. Home schooling is not my only responsibility so it takes some organising to try and do it all to the best of my ability. Because Clonard is a curriculum specifically designed for South Africa, much of the History and Geography and cultural things need a lot of extra explaining.
Q – What is the best advantage/s to homeschooling?
There is great freedom to plan and there is that personal relationship with students which really prepares them for life and its challenges.
Q – What to look for in a curriculum provider?
I like Clonard’s structure and there is also a system in place which holds home schooling parents accountable for what they teach. When there are inquiries, they are promptly answered and I have made many mistakes…..I somehow did not realise that one subject was an exam subject once and we were able to work it in at a later time with no harm done.
Q – Is hubbie involved?
Yes, he teaches the boys Technology, because I realised pretty soon that that was way beyond my area of expertise. He is also the encourager and he brings clarity when decisions need to be made. He is a good support especially to the boys.
Q – Your best piece of advice for any Mom considering homeschooling her kids?
It is not a decision that can be taken lightly, it demands a lot of self-discipline and preparation, but the benefits are worth it. It is very rewarding to see children progress and grow. Don’t try to do it all yourself, it is good to make use of other people’s skills and gifts.