Week 3 of school brought new challenges. This was our first proper full week of school including Extra Murals. The days feel a lot longer now, busier. My first alarm goes off at 5:30. I generally hit snooze 3 times and slowly wake up and then I am out of bed by 5:45. I go down, make myself some coffee, pack school snacks, and water bottles. Make sure the kids’ books are back in their bags after doing homework the day before. I pack sports bags/aftercare clothes, if and when needed. Then I sweep the floor and clean the kitchen. There are generally items in the basin from the night before, or the dishwasher needs to be unpacked. I also load washing.
By this time either one of both the boys has joined me downstairs. I then make them some breakfast. From there I wake up my husband and the kids and I get dressed and ready to go. We leave the house at 7:20. Depending on traffic, the kids generally walk-in at school as the first bell goes off at 7:50.
Back at home I tidy the rest of the house and get some work done.
Now that Extra murals have started and our are days are as follow The kids’ school days end at 13:15 for Gr 1 and 14:15 for Gr 3. Mondays, the boys have Cricket, so Liam 13:30-14:30 and Henri 14:30-15:30. We collect the kids at 15:30 Mon-Thurs. Tuesdays Liam has no extra murals and stays at aftercare. Henri has Tennis. Wednesdays Liam has Ball Skills and Henri Chess. Thursdays, if there is no Match they have Cricket practice. Friday school is done and dusted for both at 13:15.
So our new norm is getting home at 4 pm Monday to Thursday. Then we do homework, which could be completed in 20min, but it takes us an hour because little brother can be very distracting. The kids then play while I get dinner ready. Then it is the usual, dinner, shower and bedtime.
The afternoons are a massive rush and “stress” point for me because there is so much to do in a small time frame, but I am letting go of wanting to have it all done by a certain time. Washing can be taken down and folded at 8pm, it is fine. But by 9pm I am knackered and just want to get into bed. My husband and I watch some TV and I am generally in bed by 10pm.
Week 3 brought along two new first for us. The first being Liam and all the other Gr1’s being inducted. All the grade one’s were called on the stage, one by one, by the principal. They shook the principal’s hand and rang the bell. It was so super cute seeing all the little faces on stage, being welcomed into their new school.
Henri was chosen to play in the first Cricket match ever. He was so stoked. He had only had one practice the Monday and got chosen to play in the match on Thursday. On the Thursday, the excitement was clear from the moment he got up. He couldn’t wait for the school day to be done so he could play in his first match. We picked them up at 14:00 and drove to the school where the match was taking place. Henri was chosen as opening batsman. They play mini cricket, so the rules are a bit different. My husband and I were very confused, to say the least. But it was so nice to see how everyone got a chance. Henri missed the first ball, the second ball hit the stumps, third ball he hit but the bowler caught it, so technically he would have been out, twice, but because they have different rules he kept playing. On the fourth ball, he hit what would be a 4 in a normal game. Not sure how they score it, but he was very chuffed with himself, and so was dad off course.
Once the away team all had a chance to bowl and our team all batted they had a water break and swopped. Henri was first to bowl. He did very well, I knew from age 2 hat this child would play Cricket. he has a very accurate throw and a lot of power behind it. The fielding was interesting, all the other boys stayed on their spots, Henri, on the other hand, was all over the place, he just wanted to catch the players out and be part of the action. He hasn’t been chosen to play in the last 3 matches, but they have so many kids playing cricket and only 2 team that plays, so they try and rotate the kids to give them all a chance, which I love.
Henri’s second test went a LOT better, he received 14/14 for spelling, 18/20 for Afrikaans Spelling, 18/20 for math. Dictation was still very bad, but we will keep working on it. What I love about his teacher, she said that with Creative writing she doesn’t like to be too strict with spelling and writing mistakes, because she says it is very demotivating when a child has written a beautiful story but then opens their book to red pen everywhere. So for her, it is more about the story they have written, than the spelling or grammar mistakes.
Henri is doing so well and I am just grateful that we were lucky enough to get placed with such a lovely teacher.
Man these weeks are flying by. We just finished week 6, it felt like yesterday the boys had their first day at school. I really wanted to post our new adventures as they happened, but it just has not been possible. So I will try and catch up.
The first week was short and uneventful, to be honest. Those first 3 days, 15-17 Jan, the boys both finished school at 13:15, all 3 days, they came home with lots of stories. Every day there was news of new friends which was amazing. They were happy and loving every min. My youngest was loving the Tuckshop more than anything else….hahahaha
Week 2 During this week, there were no extra murals yet, so Henri would finish school at 14:15 and Liam at 13:15. Liam had an hour of aftercare every day. On the first Monday Henri came home with his Test book. They had done a revision test that first Friday. I was a bit shocked. I thought wow, 3 days in and they did a revision test. GULP. Then I opened the book and my heart sank.
10/30 for spelling (and he knew all these words, we did them last year. One was spelled correctly, but his handwriting let him down and it got marked as incorrect. This was one of the things I tried to work on with him last year and warned him about) 2/15 for dictation…. Ouch, but this is his weak point, so it was expected that he would struggle, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. 7/14 for math, math!!!! This is his strongest subject, yes I know it is 50%, but I saw the mistakes he made and they were silly mistakes.
What did I do? Of course, mom guilt immediately crept in. In my head started worrying and questioning every single thing we did last year. Was it a mistake having them home last year, have I now held him back? Is he going to struggle this year? Is he going to hate school? Will he fall behind? Then suddenly I saw that he was watching me as I looked at his book and he seemed worried. I told him that I was proud of him and that he must remember it was just a revision test, to see what they remember from last year.
That Monday night we had the Parent information evening. Now usually when we do family things together, my husband and Henri (8) pair up and myself and Liam (6). But for this, I told my husband that he will be attending the Gr 1 meeting. I had to hear what the teacher had to say and just get it all right from the get-go, to be able to help Henri this year and make sure he doesn’t fall behind.
Henri’s teacher ran through what their week looks like, she explained how assessments work, how from Gr 4 they get given their tests/exam papers and need to do it all on their own. NO assistance. Oh, my shattered nerves. So this year is apparently a BIG jump from Gr 2, and she now has to prepare them for Gr 4, which is an even bigger jump. My brain was going a hundred miles an hour. She ran through their books and some of the things they do and what to expect for homework.
One of the things she showed us was their Math Speed tests. Every day they do a Speed Test. They have 7 min to complete as many as they can. There are 20 questions.
She said we should encourage the kids to rather do less but they are correct than trying to do all 20 but most are wrong. So quality over quantity basically. When Henri came home the first day with his Speed test book I was curious to see how he did. Even though he only did 6, I was so happy. He did 6 and all 6 were correct, I made a big deal about it. It literally just got better from there.
Week 2 Day1 6/6 Day 2 5/5 Day 3 6/6 Day 4 11/11 Day 5 11/11 Week 3 Day 1 8/9 Day 2 12/15 Day 3 9/8 Day 4 20/20 Day 5 19/20
Week 4 Day 1 11/11 Day 2 20/20 Day 3 20/20 Day 4 18/18 Day 5 20/20 Since then he has been able to always complete between 15 and 20 of the equations and 9 times out of 10 gets 100%. He loves maths and he loves doing tests, so this is always his pride and joy each day once he gets home, first thing he takes out to show me.
On the Thursday of week 2, we had the schools Athletics day. On Wednesday night Henri had a slight fever and said he didn’t feel well. Same story the next morning. I told him we would still go to the athletics to let Liam participate and Henri would go and support his friends and brother, but not run. Both kids would anyway just do one race, Liam 60m, and Henri 80m. The proper athletics only really starts from Gr 4. So we went with my cousin, had a picnic and Liam had fun with the baby my cousin was babysitting, while we waited for his race. It was so super cute to see him run and just brought back so many fond memories of when I was in school. I really loved school and all the events, and I really hope my boys do as well.
I kept both boys home on the Friday, so Henri missed that week’s tests, but we did our own test on the weekend just to keep him up to date.
And that was the end of Week 2, again not a proper full school week, so we all still felt quite relaxed and chilled. We had a quiet relaxing weekend and made sure Henri was 100% by Monday. Week 3 and 4 to follow.
I can’t believe we are starting week 5 this week. I wanted to share this post after our first week back, it has just been absolutely chaotic settling into this new routine and there has been so much happening. But here goes.
Needless to say, as the days grew closer to the boys going back to school, I started worrying if we had made the right choice. Mom guilt and stress, never far away.
I have 2 friends who are foundation phase teachers, who know Henri, the one was his substatute teacher for a term. They both told me that he will thrive and that the structure will actually help. So I kept reminding myself that we will get through this, it is a new adventure and we will take it one day at a time. And should we hit bumps in the road, we will tackle them together.
Deep breaths mamma…..whooooooozaaaaaaa !!!!!!
During the holidays we went and purchased the stationery box, I ordered labels and we started marking all their stationery supplies. Just before Christmas, I had bought the grey shorts, socks, and navy PT shorts already. But the Monday before school started we went to the school’s clothing bank to try on and buy their uniform. The boys had to try some things on as the sizes were all a bit weird, so I was unsure of which sizes to take. My goodness, these boys were SO excited. We got to meet the Tuckshop ladies. Liam off course could not believe that they sold sweets at the tuckshop. Luckily the ladies from the tuckshop came to introduce themselves. They also assured me that they keep a watchful eye that the kids do not overspend and that they do not get forced to buy sweets for other kids, which honestly, I had not even thought of up until then.
On Tuesday before school started, class lists were made public and we found out who the boys teachers would be. Henri had to go for an appointment at the Orthodontist, then got all the stationary marked and ready. We washed and marked their uniform and their new school bags. We then went to get a short, neat, new haircut and we made sure we had an early night.
On Wednesday both boys were awake by 06:00. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to take on the day. Everyone got themselves ready. It is a 20min drive to school. The car trip was filled with laughter and excited giggles. As we walked up to the school my youngest said “I am so excited” which just made it all so much easier. They were both excited (and nervous), they were looking forward to making new friends and meeting their teachers. If they were scared, they sure didn’t show it. We went to Henri’s Gr3 class first. We were the first ones there. Henri’s teacher introduced herself and she and my husband cracked some jokes, immediately felt welcome. She spoke to Henri, showed him where his desk was and where he could hang his bag. At first glance, she seemed strict but lovely. For now, mom is happy. We then took Liam to his class, big brother came along. Liam’s teacher was the epitome of a First Grade teacher, warm, loving, big happy, inviting smile. She introduced herself to Liam, showed him where everything was and asked if he would like to stay and maybe do some colouring. I was expecting him to say no and that he would want to stay with us a bit longer (we were there at 08:00, he only had to be there at 08:30) but suddenly came a loud “Yes!!” from him. He came running to me and gave me a big hug and kiss and said “bye mommy, I love you, see you later” This made me teary. Not because he was trying to get rid of me, but because he so happily wanted to stay and already felt comfortable in his new space. So off we went, and for the first time dropping my kids off I was not an emotional mess. The first day of Daycare for both I cried, the first day of school I cried. But not this time. It was a weird feeling because I still felt very unsure, I still had so many questions, but their confidence and joy made me feel that everything was going to be ok. For the first 3 days, the school finished at 13:15. The boys were so happy and little energizer bunnies with verbal diarrhea when we collected them those first 3 days, my goodness. First thing Henri said to me on the first day, he came running out with the biggest smile EVER “mommy I made friend!!!!!!!!”The boy came and introduced himself, his name is Noah and they have just moved from Johannesburg, so he and his family were also new to the school. How awesome is that? Both my boys are very social and always make friends very easily, but I must admit I was a bit worried about my eldest. Starting Grade 1 with a class full of new kids is one thing, but starting in Gr3 and everyone already has their group of friends from the last 2 years, not so easy. I remember when I was little. I joined my school also in Gr3. I have to admit the friendships I made back then are still my best friends, so it wasn’t all bad. But the fact that he had made a friend, who was also new to the school was just awesome.
So that was our first week. The boys happily went to school every morning and came home all 3 days with SO much to tell us. Neither of them were big fans of the school shoes, but they wanted to wear them every day, even though I told them, that the shoes are only compulsory from Gr4, they still both insisted on wearing the shoes every day. They seemed so proud once fully dress. Admiring themselves in their uniform, it was really so cute. In the next blog I will share more about how week 2 and 3 went and what an amazing change I have seen in Henri in the last week.
During the course of last year, I received a lot of questions as to WHY we decided to homeschool. Now, the concept of homeschooling was not new to me, I had played around with the idea since my eldest was about 3.
From an early age, I realised that my eldest didn’t always understand something the first time. You had to explain things a bit differently. I soon realised he was very visual. It also helped when I made things relatable to him. Using people he knew or things he loved to explain everyday concepts.
When I started teaching him the Alphabet, for example, he would remember a letter better if I associated with something or someone he loved. For example, T was for Transformer, B for Buzz and so on.
At age 4 we got a new book, a pop-up book about pirates. There was a note from the Captain to the kids in the book who helped him, one part read “…give the jewels to Parrot Pete and he will bring them back to me” My son absolutely could not understand this. I explained that Captain James Jellyfish was somewhere else and the parrot would take it to him. Still, he did not understand. A month later my father in law was in town on business and that night, we read the book again and my son again said, he doesn’t understand what that means. Suddenly I realised I could use my father in law as an example.
I told him that if we want to send his grandmother something, we could give it to their granddad when he is here on business. So we do not see grandma, but we see granddad and he would then, in turn, give it to grandma when he sees her. Suddenly he got it, you could see his face light up, I could see he finally got it. This was when I thought that my child would struggle in a mainstream school.
I was worried he would be labeled “slow” because he doesn’t “get it” the first time. My husband experienced this in high school The math teacher explained new work, asked if everyone understood, some kids said no, she explained it (In the same way) 3 more times, every time asking if everyone understood, some did, some didn’t. In the end, my husband still had his hand up, saying he just doesn’t understand. Her reply: “Well, then you are stupid” I had since primary school experienced bad teachers. I use to love Maths and use to get a min of 80% for maths, till St.4 when I had a horrible woman as my math teacher, and since then my maths dropped to 50%, I hated maths, and still do. On the flip side, I had teachers who inspired me and pushed me to do my best, who believed in me and made me believe in myself.
I know not all teachers are like this. I do know that in a Private and Public school there will be good teachers that will go above and beyond for their students and there will be lazy/couldn’t be bothered, teachers. I think the fear at that time, was that, with a mainstream school, he would have to fit in their box and if he didn’t fit in, then the problem lay with him, not the system.
Besides the worry that they might perceive him as “slow” or having a learning disability, he is also a very busy bee, very fidgety. I worried that a mainstream environment of having one desk/spot in the class and having to sit at that desk the whole day/year would break his spirit. To sum it up, I had fears, a lot of fears.
We found a lovely Montessori school close to our house. My aunt is a Principal at a Montessori school and I have always loved the Montessori method of teaching. Without realising, our home and the way I had been raising the boys was already a very Montessori way.
So we decided to try it and see how it goes. We were at the school for 3 years, Henri started what would have been Gr00 at a pre-school. Over the course of the 3 years, there were a few things that bothered me at school. The school had lovely ideas and an amazing long term goal. Unfortunately, the Private school fees with 2 kids were getting out of hand for us, we just couldn’t afford it. Besides the financial side, I was not happy with many aspects of the school, I felt that we weren’t getting our money’s worth basically. We made the choice to take the boys out.
This was a difficult decision to make because the boys were both happy at school. They, and I, had made amazing friends while at the school. I could barely keep myself together on the last day of school saying goodbye to teachers. I even ended up having a massive abscess in my eye, which many said was stress related. But, financially this was by far the best choice for us.
All the schools in our area had long waiting lists. This along with all those fears I still had, we decided as a family that we would give Homeschooling a try and relook at our choice after 6 months.
There are many benefits to homeschooling. If you have a child that really struggles to learn or understand things and needs more one on one time, Homeschooling would definitely be an option for you. There are so many free resources that can be used, there are companies you can work through, that sends you all the workbooks and plans you need.
Besides the financial side of it, one of the things that started to bother me what that my eldest seemed to struggle with the freedom he had in the Montessori classroom. I was told that he loves maths and they struggle to get him to work with equipment from all the other “subjects” in the class. In the 3 years he was at the school I felt that his speech and writing didn’t improve as much as his peers did. Now in a Montessori environment, they have 3 years to tick all their boxes. So if they master all 3 years math in the first year awesome. If it takes them 3 years to master writing, great. BUT I really felt like the lack of the growth of his writing came from having too much freedom to choose what he works on a daily basis. So this along with the financial side of things is what made us decide to try Homeschooling.
For our full homeschooling journey please read my next blog.
Why did we send our boys back to school? Well, the answer is simple. I am not a teacher. I did not study to be a teacher, I do not know all kinds of tricks to help them learn certain things, I do not know what they are supposed to be able to master and by when, and somewhere along the way, the patience I had as a 19year old taking care of 15 kids at once has faded.
Last year was both the best and worst year for me as a mom. Yes, we got to have lazy, sleep in mornings while everyone else did the morning school rush, yes we could snuggle and play whenever we wanted, we could go to the Aquarium and have the whole place to ourselves. But on the flip side, I felt really under a lot of pressure. It was my responsibility to plan school work. It was my responsibility to set up a routine and actually stick to it. It was my responsibility to make sure they do not fall behind. All of this while cleaning the house, doing the washing, doing the grocery shopping, cooking and still working in between. It became too much for me and I felt that I wasn’t doing any of the jobs I had on my plate properly. But most importantly I felt like I was failing my boys at being their mother.
I take my hat off to the Homeschooling mothers. I got to know quite a few the last year. Some have 3 or 4 kids and they manage it all, along with all other chores and some even have jobs as well. I am in awe of you. I simply can’t. I really struggled to do it all and to keep it all together.
I felt like I spent most of my days moaning at the kids. I felt like there were more negative moments than positive ones. It wasn’t all bad, we had good days, we had days where we spent the whole day playing, but learning about life, Biology, and Geography while playing, we did fun experiments. We got to spend so much time together, but it wasn’t quality time. I realise that I would much rather let go of my fears of public schooling and embrace my job as their support system, their Cheerleader in life. And if we should come across problems in the next few years at school, we will deal with them together.
I am proud of myself for giving it a try. I am proud that I helped teach my 6 year old to read, that was definitely my biggest accomplishment in 2019. We went from Jan 2019, where he would moan and fight and not want to work on 3 letter words, or even come near a reading book, to Nov 2019 where he would without being prompted take a book and start reading. He is now, not just reading 3 letter words, he is actually reading books and loving it.
While homeschooling I struggled with my eldest to write on his own. He was able to copy things I wrote on the board and did quite well with his spelling tests on a Friday, yet he would have epic meltdowns when he had to write 3 sentences for me. He would start saying that he is Stupid and he can’t do it. We tried all different ways of doing creative writing, none worked, it would all end in tears and frustration.
At one point in June, I realised how I had spent the whole day fighting and moaning. I just felt like I was failing them as a teacher and mother. We had good days, but most days I really struggled to stay positive. Many homeschooling moms told me to take it easy and let them work when they felt like it, to not force it. But this didn’t feel right to me. Sure it does work with some kids, but with mine, if I were to give them the option to do school work or not they would have always opted not to do school work as all other kids would and that worried me. So I set up a schedule and we stuck to it. It did get better but we were still fighting quite a bit.
I tried to incorporate playing with learning, but I found it hard to incorporate writing for my 7 year old into playing and reading for the 5 year old. We did experiments and played math games, scrabble, we took a “trip” around the world. But the 2 things I was trying to teach them we were really struggling with. I started to worry that they were falling behind. So after a lot of consideration, we decided the boys would go back to school.
Now the question was where do we send them? It was mid year, all registrations had closed. My husband wanted a public school and he wanted the school to have a good sports department. I had my eye on 2 other schools, but fees were just ridiculous. We registered them with a much loved Primary school very close to us, unfortunately, this school is very popular and we went on their very long waiting list. By Nov my husband said we should start looking at other schools outside our area, even if we had to move. Luckily we got accepted at a school 15min from where we live. We didn’t have to move.
Please look out for my next few blogs. I will be going into more detail about what we did while homeschooling, and what worked. I will also post about how the boys have adapted to the new school. I do still have fears of things that could go wrong but I am ready and I feel more positive about the year ahead than fearful. I will also post a blog about how I am helping to build my sons’ confidence. I have also since found out what has caused a lack of confidence. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but I am so grateful that I now know and we can now work on improving his confidence.