Education. It’s the most important gift you can give your child to help them navigate this fast-paced, ever-changing world and become an adult who contributes to society. What that education looks like is up to you as the parent. Simbithi mom, Natalia Kupfer, has taken a ‘different is good’ approach.
Born in Chile, educated in Switzerland and based in the UK before moving to the North Coast in 2014, pharmaceutical scientist, Natalia has taken her two children’s schooling into her own hands after realising that traditional education was not an option for them.
“I believe our education system is in a crisis,” says the mom of five-year-old Rily and two-year-old Lilu. “Mainstream schools are teaching the same way children were taught 200 years ago! Back then, the government wanted to have workers because of the industrial revolution, so schooling was aimed at creating workers who wait for instructions, follow rules and think inside the box. Today, we need thinkers. People who can solve problems and think out of the box. Our society has changed. Education must change too.”
She delved into researching different education systems and ways of learning and created a form of home schooling that combines elements from various curriculums.
“We incorporate techniques and learning methods from Forest School, Reggio Emilia and Montessori.” She has also adopted a similar theory to Finland’s schooling system with shorter school days and a no-homework policy. “Life is already so busy and when your child is rushing from school to swimming to dancing to homework, constantly pushing and competing with others, you end up with a ten-year-old who is stressed out. If school work is done effectively and efficiently, homework should not be necessary. Time at home should allow children to play and enjoy spending time with their family. I am all for competition but compete as yourself.” Individualism inspired the name for her online, education business, Different is Good, which focuses on making educational tools for parents and teachers to use to encourage engaged learning.
“Most schools teach using the visual sense only and through repetition. Imagine having to write the letter ‘A’ 50 times… how boring?! When your mind is not engaged, you become bored and you are not going to learn. We have five senses and we learn much better if we use all of them.”
To stimulate the mind and engage all the senses, Natalia’s first product is a colourful, interactive, All About Farm Animals flash card set complete with the matching animal figurines, the names of all the family members for each animal and the different body parts. “This fun learning tool stimulates visual, tactile and auditory learning, builds fine motor and cognitive skills and encourages problem solving.” The best part is that you can also choose in which language your kids are going to learn. “Learning a language is probably the best way to develop cognitive skills and we are best suited to learn a language before the age of six,” says the trilingual mom who speaks French, Spanish and English to her children. She added the language feature because she realised that many moms want their kids to be exposed to different languages, but don’t know how to go about it. “The cards are linked to a downloadable audio guide that allows your child to learn in Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, French, Spanish, English and German!” She also recently added the Dinosaur Adventure Activity Set.
“I firmly believe in learning through playing. We were taught by society that if you don’t put information in your head from a book you are not learning. It’s important to know certain things, but it’s the way you react to the info and use it that makes the difference.” Instead, the mom follows a holistic approach to learning which is not restricted to classroom time. “Just by living, you are learning. If you go hiking, you are learning. Schooling doesn’t just happen in a classroom with a teacher. Being told what and how to do everything doesn’t teach innovative and inventive thinking. I’ve seen it with my kids – when they are free, they flourish. We don’t really have toys. I don’t buy them. Instead, the children make things, and they barely ever say they are bored.” Not being bored is the key to learning, says Natalia, so to prevent the “b”-word from creeping in, she constantly adapts their learning methods to keep “school” interesting, which keeps her on her toes too.
“Moms often tell me I’m brave because I home school my kids. I don’t think I am. Home schooling is not the solution for everyone, but don’t be intimidated by the idea because you think you have to be a teacher to home school. You just need your kids to believe they can learn whatever they want to and make learning fun. It is all about learning together really.”
Details: https://www.differentisgood.co.za/, Facebook: differentisgoodSA or WhatsApp 063 715 1004.