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.
The world would be a much better place if we could all just be a little kinder to each other. It is really THAT simple. We don’t have to go out and give away all our food, clothes and money to the people who are starving or build houses for the homeless. Don’t get me wrong all of this is good, we should be helping in whichever way we can, but what I am trying to say is, if you are unable to help someone financially or otherwise, you could simply help them with an act of kindness. Even just a “Hey, how are you doing today?” Just take other people’s feelings into consideration for a change.
Would it really kill you to smile at someone walking past you on the street or in a mall? They won’t want to become your new best friend. You don’t know what they have been through, and you might just brighten their day and give them hope by simply showing some emotion as you walk past, acknowledging their existence. For some that could be just what they need, because at home they might be ignored or abused and your smile might just help them get through the day. I take our one neighbours for example. The husband pretends to not see you when he comes home and we happen to be in the driveway, the wife will see you but also try not to make eye contact.
People in the shops, oh my word, they are the worst. Would it kill you to cut a mom with 2 screaming kids some slack? Glaring at her across the queue at the pay points of the local shop like she is the worst thing that could have come across your path that day. Sure you might be having a shit day as well, but she is trying, giving her the stinky eyeball helps no one.
If you have kids you surely understand the situation she is in. Her kids are demanding sweets after she has said no, she is standing tall, putting her foot down and not backing down just because they are now crying in a public place and disturbing your “peaceful” trip to the shops. It really gets my blood boiling when people look down on others or judge them without knowing them or their situation.
I have experienced both the good and the bad of people whilst out with my two kids. I have had people say to me “Well done, I love to see mothers who don’t just give in to their kids because they are in a public place” “You are doing a great job” Or I have people commend me for breastfeeding in public. Or thank me for trying to raise my boys to have propper manners by asking them to be too loud in a restaurant.
On two of these day’s were I received these “complements” I was having a super crappy day and you know what, I didn’t know either of those women and they didn’t know me, but I almost cried and hugged them, both times because I was having such a tough day and I felt like a failure and the worst mom ever. Just by saying something positive to me those women made my day and made me feel better about myself.
I have however more often than not, experienced “the stare” You know it…. You can literally hear them thinking “just shut him up already” “just give him the sweets for crying out loud” “she obviously has no idea what she is doing” Or something along that line.
It hurts the most coming from another mom. You want to tell me your child is an angel ALL the time?? Why do you feel the need to make me feel even more shitty about myself than I all ready do?
I have written a blog before about people moaning at me for allowing my boys to play with dolls, or paint their nails stuff like that. But I have had many other comments. One day I had to go to Canal Walk to do a grocery shop. My youngest was 2 months and my eldest 2 years. After their mid-day nap, we started off with lunch at Spur. At Spur I had a crap experience with a lady who kept eyeballing me and shaking her head because I was breastfeeding my baby. Then my toddler ran away from me in Spur as we were getting ready to leave. Thank goodness the manager caught him by just as he was about to get on the escalator.
From there we went to Pick n Pay. Now, I was tired and all ready quite stressed out by what happened at Spur. My toddler was not happy about being in the trolley, but I did not want him running around in the shop as I had the baby with me as well. When we got to Pick n Pay I thought, let me place the baby in one of those baby seats. The first 10min went well. As the trolley became fuller, my toddler started saying he wanted to get out. He wasn’t moaning, just asking me to take him out. I realised that I would have to take him out as I would anyway run out of space. Now, yes I know, not the ideal situation to be in, but I had no other choice, I had to have both with me and I had to buy groceries. Anyway, long story short, the paw paw hit the fan in the dairy section. The toddler ran off, there was a lovely elderly lady at one of those sample tables, with some or other cheese. She grabbed my trolley, which had my baby and my bag on, and she said “Go get him, I have this” Ran after him, picked him up, plopped him in the trolley and said “sorry boy, this is where you are staying now”
Now my toddler started to moan. I kept saying no and I explain to him why he has to stay in the trolley, from here there was a lady that was always in the same aisle we were in, she kept looking at me shaking her head. Four aisles on, my toddler is now making a big fuss. I decide to move baby to the wrap and pack everything over to a normal trolley without the baby seat so the toddler could sit in the seat and not the actual trolley. So I had made a plan, the toddler was stil not happy as he wanted to walk/run, but I said he can’t and he was making his peace with it as I was standing my ground. The entire trip to PnP was now taking so long that baby was becoming fussy. I was now trying to wrap things up ASAP. I was mentally and physically exhausted and just want to get back home.
As we get into the queue I take a small bottle of Coke from the fridge. I felt the need for a sugar rush because I was actually shaking. The lady that had seen us a few times in the aisles and who didn’t approve my parenting/coping skills was at the till next to us. I take a big sip of the Coke. My toddler starts “me, me, me, me to mommy, me”
Now everyone who knows me would tell you I never gave my kids Coke when they were little. But after the day I had, I gave him a small sip because I was just absolutely excited and didn’t want to now have him upset about this. Yes, I caved, but I just wanted the day to be over. The lady at the till next to us “Do you have any idea how bad that is for his stomach” I literally had zero energy to even comment. I took another massive sip, left a small mouth full for my toddler. Handed the bottle to him, while looking at her and just said “Really? I had no idea. Thanks for that” Paid and left.
Now, sure, the lady probably thought she would tell me something I don’t know. But I was very well aware of how bad Coke was. But she didn’t know that. She also had no idea what had lead to that specific point. She had no idea the kak 3 hours I had just before that point. My point with all of this is, when you see a child having a meltdown and you do not agree with how the mother is handling it. Or maybe the mother is having a meltdown, whatever, there is no need to comment. Why do some people feel the need to but in? I mean, it has nothing to do with them. Ugh, I don’t know, maybe it is just me.
I just think being kind to someone else doesn’t cost you anything. Just the other day we stopped at the mall. My husband and I got out, 2 cars from us there was a mom moaning at a child in the back of a bakkie. She was clearly frustrated, hands on her hips “honestly, get out of the car please” was the first thing I heard. I looked over, saw she had a baby in a pram and clearly another child in the bakkie. By now my boys were out. They looked over and you could see the lady felt embarrassed by what was happening. My husband commented “the struggle is real” and I said “I feel your pain, that is usually us” She replied “he doesn’t want to get out of the car because his pants are green” We wished her luck and walked off. My boys asked “who was that” I said “I don’t know, but it is a mom having a tough day and I sympathised with her” My eldest “Why” Me “because usually, that is me”
“Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – Mark Twain