Most of us think of education as learning facts from textbooks, (or the online equivalent) because that’s how the school system works and that’s probably the limit of our own experience …until you start homeschooling …and then you realise that there are multiple other ways to learn that are far superior – like learning from stories and learning from real life experience. This is the combination that Footprints embraces. If homeschooling is stressing you out, we hope this article will encourage you to drop the text books and online lectures of school-at-home systems and read stories together.

You will be amazed at how superior stories are, compared to (boring) text books, as a tool for learning:

1. Science shows that our brains are hardwired to learn through stories

Throughout the ages, humans have taught their children about their history and community by telling them stories. Our brains are wired to effectively process and connect information in this manner. Researchers have found that the brain does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience or living it in real life – the same regions of the brain are stimulated in a form of simulation learning. You remember something because you have ‘lived’ it through the story. The information becomes integrally connected to the ‘scaffold’ of information about the world that already exists in your brain. You can also learn valuable life lessons from the experiences of fictional characters.

Stories are a great way to ensure deep learning in a age of digital distraction. In a world of continuous distractions, neuroscience confirms that stories still engage learners, drive information deep into the memory centres of the brain and create education that is truly unforgettable!

2. Deep learning and cultural awareness in context


When our children have ‘lived’ an experience through a story, or through real life, instead of merely knowing the facts, they have a multi-sensory experience of the context of that story. The senses and emotions have been aroused and stimulated and this experience stays with them, unlike cold, memorised facts learned from a textbook for a test and soon forgotten.

While reading a story about a Khoikhoi boy’s life, we learned about his culture’s beliefs, traditions and practices in the context of his daily life and adventures, like hunting with a bow and arrow and fighting enemy tribes.

When we read a story about a Zulu child whose tribal territory was threatened by the invasion of trekkers, who were escaping from the challenges of war and British rule in the Cape Colony, we were stirred and learned that history is always viewed through the lens of a culture. What happened in any given context is not always as clear as ‘black’ and ‘white’.

It has been a special experience; the heroes and heroines and families have become our friends; we identified very strongly with many of them.

~Pam, Sedgefield

3. Stories stimulates empathy in a way that dry facts in a textbook never can

Children get a deeper understanding of people’s intentions, motivations and the consequences of events through stories. They are able to empathise more deeply as they have experienced the world from the perspective of other characters. Stories help us to appreciate the complexities of social life.

By reading stories, we discover that there is often more than one or two perspectives in a given situation. For example, when we read a story set in the Anglo-Boer war about a boy whose mother was a Boer and his father British, we saw that the war was much more complex than two powers struggling over mineral-rich territory. The story gave it a human touch and showed how the war affected the lives of ordinary families. We experienced some of the emotional pain and conflicts they endured. We learned to think more critically about the issues and the effects of the war on the lives of people.

Through stories we see through the eyes of others, we walk in their shoes and we share their struggles. This results in a much richer and more memorable experience than a textbook summary of events.

Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.

~ Charlotte Mason

4. Great literature has no age limits – parents love it too

6 reasons stories are better than text books

Instead of spending our days trying to drill dry facts into the memories of reluctant, bored learners, parents get to enjoy living book experiences along with their children. We become co-learners and we can all share our enthusiasm for the stories together.

Children love stories and parents love having children who are eager to learn. This makes for a stress-free and joyful learning experience.

As you share rich literary experiences together you are not only learning about the world and other places and times, but you are also building a rich library of shared family experiences and memories that will stay with you all for a lifetime – and that is priceless.

To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served.

~ Charlotte Mason

5. Instead of memorising facts, children enjoy a multi-sensory learning experience that makes learning come alive

san rock art

With literature-based learning, the goal of learning is not to fill in worksheets and pass tests. Our aim is to enrich our children’s minds with both knowledge and experiences. They not only get to imagine the experiences they read about, but in our Footprints programmes, we also offer ideas for activities and outings to place of interest to make learning come alive in your reality.

For example, after we read a story about life on a wine farm, we also experienced treading grapes in a vintage wine press in the Cape. When we read about the gold rush, we took a trip and panned for gold dust in a river in Mpumalanga. Over many years, we visited San caves, Namaqualand in spring, Garden Route forests with abandoned gold-digs and trekked to Dias’s Cross to see places and things we had read about. Some of our adult children have continued their learning adventure and travelled the world to see places of interest, outside South Africa, that we have read about together on our couch. Reading stories together helps you become life-long learners.

By combining literature with real life experiences, you help your children to connect what they read about with the world in which they are living so that it makes more sense.

6. Stories feed the mind and give moms peace of mind

Many families are overwhelmed by other school-at-home (CAPS-based) curricula and methods because they are too structured, too dictatorial and no fun! The curriculum is a slave-master and families feel stressed out, trying to keep up with the demands of the service provider.
On the other hand, some parents spend hours trying to put together their own learning programmes instead of actually engaging with their children. Others worry about whether their children are actually stimulated and actively learning enough or just drifting through their days.

Footprints is the ‘happy place’ where children have the freedom to follow their own interests, but moms know that they have great stories as well as the tools and resources to connect their children’s minds with great ideas and great authors.

My kids got up early this morning to do their maths so they had more time in the morning for Footprints. They love it!

~ Rox Brummer

Pick your story-based learning adventure from Footprints

South African homeschool curriculum self-drive learning safari

Footprints on our Land offers homeschooling families three English and one Afrikaans literature-based learning adventure.
In each South African homeschool curriculum package, we provide you with a selection of high quality South African stories, plus a parent manual full of ideas of topics to discuss and debate, activities to get your kids to dig for more knowledge and outings to enrich your learning experience. Think of it as a self-drive, learning safari through South Africa, where you have no pressure from a curriculum service-provider, instead you are free to progress at your own pace and linger to soak up any scene that captivates your children.

For over 20 years, South African families have delighted in learning with Footprints. Don’t miss out on making Footprints part of your homeschooling journey.

Here’s a quick video in which Wendy and Shirly chat about the benefits of reading to your children, such as growing minds, developing critical thinking, building relationship skills and more.