Ex-army mom drills battalion of scholars - Home school grows by word of mouth
Published: Wednesday | March 11, 2009
When Janice Lewis decided to pull her children out of the formal education system, even her husband might have thought she was going bonkers.
But what started with her three biological children, aged three, five and seven, has grown to 26, catering for kindergarten to grade five-level students.
Lewis, 50, told The Gleaner her labour of love has begun to reap rich rewards.
Among her success stories is her daughter, Michaela, who aced the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) with an average of 94. She's now a fourth-form student at St Andrew High School for Girls. Another feather in her cap is an unrelated male student, with an average of 91.75, who passed for Ardenne High.
"My family members and friends are very pleased with me, as they have seen the results, and even though I don't advertise the school in the media, it is known by a lot of people through word of mouth in the community," Lewis told The Gleaner.
The school, which is located in the rural St Andrew community of Coopers Hill, is registered with the Ministry of Education as Redeemed Prep and Reading Centre, she said.
Despite the success, Lewis, an ex-army officer, recalled her struggling journey when she had her 10 children - yes, 10 - under her wings.
In September 1999, she became dissatisfied with the tutelage at Covenant Christian Academy, which her three eldest children attended. Lewis was convinced she had to take things into her own hands.
"In January 2000, I took on the task of removing them from the school, and decided to home-school them myself after I suggested to them to sort themselves out," Lewis said.
Janice Lewis (second right) goes through a lesson with students at her Coopers Hill home school.
Her husband, retired Major Neil Lewis, initially resisted the sugges-tion, citing a preference for tradi-tional schooling, which facilitated greater social interaction. But Mom, who had training in food technology, dived headlong into uncharted waters.
While spending time in the United States in the 1980s, she became familiar with the A Becka early-childhood curriculum developed at Pensacola Christian College.
The A Becka curriculum is heavily used in subjects like health safety, etiquette, mathematics, science, spelling and penmanship. Lewis said she utilises some of the texts used in formal schools, and also makes use of a GSAT website.
She has also worked as vice-principal for six months at Liberty Prep in St Andrew.
Today, Lewis boasts that even her hubby has become a full-fledged convert.
He believes the children are now more rested, relaxed and happy. Any deviation from discipline is quickly nipped in the bud, the teacher-mom said.
As the school population has grown larger, she has enlisted four other teachers in her pet project.
She told The Gleaner that although her biological children were not in a traditional school setting, they participated in extra-curricular activities such as piano, ballet, attending church and other family entertainment. They also go on excursions yearly.
"The home school has become such a success that (it even caters for) children who are autistic, and adults have seen the need to become involved in the home-school programme to become literate," said Lewis.
Retired Major Neil Lewis goes through a cadet drill with students at the Redeemed Prep and Reading Centre in Coopers Hill, St Andrew, recently. - Photos by Sonia Mitchell