Category Archives: Education

#Admissions2017 – We don’t need no education…


First person to guess the singer of the title song gets the prize.

So if you were like me –> had a baby in 2010 and have opted for government schooling… you would have been privy to the rather stressful task of getting your child registered on the new government portal for online applications for admission to schools.  I won’t lie, I was there. Virtually toyi-toying with my comrades, baying for MEC Lesufi’s blood all over social media. It was a blood bath of epic proportions as disgruntled parents and guardians took to social media to lambaste the Minister on his terrible mistake to roll out this new system. Yes, I was one of them. I even tweeted the Minister directly, I was MAD, people. MAD.  I had wasted a whole day’s work waiting for this website to work. There we were, like the Israelites who had the Promised Land in front of them, but instead wanted to go back to the Egypt of standing in a queue to enroll our children into a school. Cussing out the poor Minister and his team.

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Then the website worked, albeit 7.5 hours after the original kickoff time. But it worked.

And then there was relative silence. No apologies. No congratulations. Just silence. And I felt bad for the Minister. This is theoretically, a huge step for the admissions process in Gauteng. And trust me, I was one of the parents who queued last year, so I know what I’m talking about. This process is the future. Last year, there was lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth as parents queued overnight at schools to ensure their children qualified for a place at the school. We were outraged that we had to line up to get our children an education which they deserved, just by birthright. The whole first come, first serve basis was totally unrealistic, people who were not zoned were also getting into schools before those who lived next door to the school. It was all a bit of a shambles, if we are to be honest.

So yes, I applied online. I then went leisurely to my first school of choice and collected the application forms and  this morning returned them with all the necessary supporting documents. It was a civilised, dignified process. It is the way of the future.

Some of the questions which came out of this process:

  1. How are poor, computer-illiterate people going to apply online? Answer: libraries and DoE offices remain open to assist people with this process. Schools, themselves, are also availing their computer facilities to help. Also, you’d be alarmed at the ever growing number of SA residents (LSM 5 and below) who have smart phones. You can apply on your smart phone.
  2. The website is pre-assigning me to schools I don’t want to go to. Answer: this has always been the case, people. You can only apply to schools in the zone in which you live or work. Nothing new there. While there were technical glitches with the mapping on the site, when that was resolved you HAD to apply to those schools based on the address you plugged in.
  3. The website keeps crashing.  Answer: what we all failed to realise is that the website or the process does not work on a first come, first serve basis. Yes, your application was time stamped but that did not necessarily place you ahead of anyone else in the virtual queue. The website crashed because the whole of Gauteng wanted to go online and register/apply at the SAME time. When that mad dash was over, the website worked perfectly. While it is not advisable to do so, you could actually wait until 1 June and apply for your child and if you are zoned and meet all the requirements for that school, you have as good a chance of being accepted, as the child who applied with the mad rush on the 19th April. Again, NOT advisable but just trying to prove a point.

Look, I don’t know what happens on the back end now. Like I said to a friend, this is Africa so trying all these first world processes does leave one feeling skeptical and unsure. But what I do know is that my child’s application has been submitted in a simple and stress-free way. Whether she is accepted or not is up to the Heavens 🙂 but I live in hope!

I feel somewhat ostentatious about the whole thing: we are the Grade 1 class of 2017 who have pioneered the brand new online system for the Department of Education, the first of it’s kind in South Africa! That’s something, isn’t it?!

For what it’s worth, I applaud MEC Lesufi and his team and I apologise for the original hate. With everything else that is going on in South Africa, mostly negative, let’s shout about our small successes too.

South Africa, we live in hope!

 

 

 

The little toys that aren’t.


I often get emails from people asking me to promote stuff on the blog, or to plug some event, or to ask for help in raising awareness for a specific initiative. Most times I’m just too much of an unreliable blogger to follow through (really I need to put on my big girl blogger panties and take these thing more seriously), and other times it really isn’t a cause I’m interested in.

But sometimes, you come across a cause worth championing and this is one of them. Stuff that makes your heart break. Do you know there are children out there who don’t have toys? Children who re-purpose what we would consider junk, into toys, because they have nothing else. Makeshift robots, dolls, cars, jewellery – these kids make these little toys that aren’t, from scraps. jewel1

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car 2

car 1

Now let’s just think about our own children for a minute, shall we. Picture your home in your mind. Picture the toys laying in every conceivable corner. Picture the little cars lined up on the bath tub. Picture the naked Barbie dolls with bad hair. Picture the dozens and dozens of forgotten loom bands laying at the bottom of a toy chest. Picture the rows of books your children probably only read three or four of. Picture the puzzles with missing pieces, the art sets, the balls, the Stikeez collection your kid whined over for weeks.

Now. Picture your home without any of those things.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s wrong and unjust that this is the reality for some children.

The Topsy Foundation is trying to right that wrong. Through a partnership with Spree and Your Parenting, these makeshift toys are being sold “virtually” as real toys. Your full donation goes straight to Topsy to stock their toy library. And guys, they aren’t asking for hundreds of Rands. Please click through to this link and go and buy your virtual toy from as little as R20.

Topsy has partnered with twenty three day care centres in the Mpumalanga area, as well as a centre for physically disabled kids. With the help of your donation, these kids are getting access to specialised educational toys and better trained teachers.

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See, I just bought my first virtual toy. My next step will be to let my children buy their own “virtual toys” – I think this is an awesome opener for teaching your kids a valuable life lesson right here.

I love that quote from Mother Theresa where she speaks of “not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Will you do this small thing with me, which will change the lives of many? I dare you.

End of term and teachers who know your kid.


It’s hard to celebrate the end of the term when your kids are not there to celebrate with you, but celebrate we must. The kids are on holiday in Durban with their grandparents, having the time of their lives. I do so love that they get to do this, I am so pleased that they get to build these memories with their grandparents.

Anyway, I received a call from a certain 6 year old yesterday morning to remind me to fetch his report (truthfully I had forgotten) and to say hello to all his friends at school, which I duly did. I am pleased to report that he had a really good first term. For those of you who know my story, you will know that Big School was a Big Deal for us. I was stressed about the school, about how he would settle in, about the transport to said school which is faaaar out of our zone. And now we’re at the end of a term and it feels like we’ve been doing this forever!

The only “negative” on his report is that he tends to talk too much and thus needs to be reminded to focus. Now I wonder where he gets that from? Ha.

When I phoned to give him the good news, I didn’t even mention this blip on an otherwise excellent report. I didn’t want to rain on his parade and I know ALL about that blip and we are constantly working on it. I have the same blip on my life report too, ha.

Which brings me to my next point. What excited me most about his report, is that his teacher sees him exactly as I do. Let me elaborate on that… there was a time when Liam received a report from school and it was not pleasing. I couldn’t reconcile the school Liam with the home Liam. And it wasn’t a case of “I think my child is an angel” when in fact the child needs a straight jacket. No. I truly didn’t think they had summed up my kid properly. The report made me think that he needed Ritalin or something similar and that was not the boy I knew. Of course I took it up with the principal and we sorted it out and by the next report I had taught them how to word things appropriately (HashtagKiddingNotKidding). My point is there is nothing worse than people not “getting” your child. I know that mothers often look at their children through rose tinted glasses and often need someone to point out the truth; quite frankly I wish my mother had told me years ago that I can’t actually sing, but there are also times when you need to step in as a parent and say NO, that is not my kid, I don’t think you’ve engaged with him enough to know that that is NOT my kid.

Our Mrs V gets my Liam. Besides this report card, our one-on-one meetings always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, EVEN WHEN the report is negative – because it’s always been about something that I had already picked up at home and she confirms it for me, and I know that she is seeing what I am seeing and we work on it together. I love the words which were used in this particular report card. She didn’t say he is a distraction, she didn’t say we need to calm this child down with whatever is at our disposable, she didn’t say that he is making it unbearable for the rest of the class (which I am sure he does at times)… she always makes me feel that we can work through this together, that my boy is perfect and just needs polishing (which he needs a lot of). The Liam I know and love, is the Liam she is getting to know at school, and the fact that these two Liam’s reconcile, pleases me no end.

I guess we all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies and as an adult I mostly don’t care if people get me or not. Let me say that differently: as an adult, I don’t let it bother me too much if people don’t get me. But as a child, when you are misunderstood, or the adults who play vital roles in your life (teachers, coaches, grandparents even)  don’t know how you tick and you don’t have the verbal or emotional capacity to deal with that, it can be really hard on you, and harder on the parent who DOES know and knows your potential. So having a teacher who wants to know your child and wants to draw the best out of your child is such an amazing blessing, and one that I do not take lightly.

I know teachers are different, I also am aware of the fact that our kids will have to face these challenges in their lives and not everyone will “get” them. In fact, it’s probably a good character building lesson to learn. But for now, with all the other stuff this shiny new Grade R six year old is going through, I am so glad that we landed ourselves in the butter with a lovely teacher.

For those of you who were wondering how we’ve solved the transport issue, we tried many ways including me dashing out during the work day to take him to aftercare at Hannah’s school (no brainer that that didn’t last long) and have eventually settled for two morning drop offs, aftercare for the Mr at his own school at an exorbitant price,  aftercare for the Miss at her own school, I leave work earlier to collect both kids, and unrivaled peace of mind. Ah.

The Big School post.


So we’re well into the first term and I still find my heart spasm-ing, constricting, palpating and all those other words that mean you are not coping very well with the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Big School is going well for the kid. In fact, I had my first one-on-one with Mrs V yesterday and she is well impressed with our boy. She says he has settled well, that he works beautifully, that he is the best reader in the class, and that he interacts and plays cheerfully with everyone. There was that bit about how he can be very demanding of her attention and how he wants her all to himself,  and how he is quite noisy, but let’s overlook that little part, shall we?

The person who isn’t coping well with Big School is me. For a variety of reasons… to name a few:

The calendar. 

Oh the calendar. He has something different on everyday except a Wednesday. This means that we have to remember to pack a different item (clothes, gadget, book, equipment) in his bag everyday. And by “we” I actually mean “ME” because this 6 year old  remembers NOTHING. It also means I have to remember a different pick up time for almost four days of the week. I have to write EVERYTHING down or else I forget. Then there’s something for Show and Tell that needs to be remembered once a week, reading that needs to be checked and signed everyday, tuck shop money on the last Friday of every month, library books that need to be returned or else we incur a fine and a million other little things that crop up that we need to deal with. I loved our pre school because they made it really easy for the parents. In fact, I’ve come to realise they made it too easy for us. I didn’t have to do anything, other than drop and fetch the kids. No lunch, no extra murals outside of school hours, no show and tell, no fundraising, no nothing. It was awesome. Big School on the other hand is all about being independent and responsible and getting yourself together. You don’t have your school hat, then fine you can’t play outside today. You don’t have your library book, then fine you have to pay AND you don’t get to take another book out until you return the old one. Your mother hasn’t signed your homework book, then fine you get a de-merit. Guys, it’s HARD out there for a kid!

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The scary calendar

Pre school teachers versus Big School teachers. 

This has been by far the most difficult challenge for me. I am the mom who hangs around at drop off, I want to engage with you and ask you what you had for dinner and ask you what your weekend plans are and tell you the hilarious thing that my kid did last night. That’s me, and our lovely little pre school encouraged this. I was never made to feel like it was not OK to hold up the whole morning with my chin-wagging. I felt in control because I knew EVERYTHING that was going on with my child, I had a heart to heart with the teacher about EVERYTHING at ANY time. Woah. Big School. You are not encouraged to hang around, talk to the teacher at drop off or pick up, cross examine the teacher about last night’s homework or make small talk. It’s a big no-no. If you need to speak to the teacher, you make an appointment or you write it in the message book. You cannot hold up Big School with your chin-wagging. Everyone has something to do, including your child, there is no time to shoot the breeze in Big School, no sireeeee. Mrs V is lovely, I adore her, she is perfect for Liam and he loves her too, but man I feel so out of control. I feel like I don’t know what is going on. Relying on my 6 year old for information is making me twitch. Because his version of the school day events goes something like this: we played, we did some work, I must bring something for show and tell, I had water melon for snack. I can take my soccer ball to school tomorrow. OK, can I go and play now?

I’m like HUH? I need MORE than that, give me MORE!!

I chatted with Mrs V about this in our meeting last night and she laughed… she said that if anything was the matter, I would definitely know about it. She said this was a normal reaction from all the virgin Big School moms and that she encourages moms to keep the channel of communication open… just via the message book. Ha!

So. As if I don’t have enough going on, I signed up for Class Mom. Guys, my OCD would not allow me to just let this one slide. I feel like it would give me a bit more control over what is going on with school. I wrote a long essay in the message book asking various questions about the position and the requirement and with that knowledge, I applied for the job. Ha. The Job. Class Mom of the Year.

As for that message book, they don’t know me, they don’t know I can write pages and pages of words, they don’t know how it crushes my spirit to get a simple “OK!” and smiley face back in return when I have poured out my heart on those pages. That’s MY message book, not Liam’s. I even covered it nicely in paper and plastic wrap.  Oh, the hurt!

Transport woes. 

Currently, I do two school drop-offs. Liam first, then Hannah. Then at lunch time, I fetch Liam and I drop him at Hannah’s school for after care. Then I go back to work and fetch them both on my way home. It is quite exhausting, even though all this is within a 5km radius. So we’re looking at putting him into his  own school’s aftercare even though it costs almost double than the aftercare at Hannah’s school, but let’s be honest… playing chauffeur was tough even for Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy, I don’t know how long I can keep this up. So we’re trying and testing all sorts of scenarios to see what will eventually be the best plan for our family.

All in all, I still LOVE our school. I am so happy with our decision to send him there and despite all the challenges, I am happy to keep making the sacrifices that need to be made in order to keep him (and eventually Hannah) there. I can’t believe I have a kid in Big School. I can’t believe I have a kid who just gets left at the gate and makes his own way to the classroom all the way on the top floor – this makes me shake all over, but some days he insists, sighhh.

Nothing quite prepares you for Big School!

Forget that, I can do anything.


My firstborn. My son. Liam John. He graduates from preschool today. I am in complete disbelief and denial over the fact that he is going to big school next year. This seems like the other day:

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The moms in my circle will agree that five is the most awesome age. I call it the Age of Enlightenment. For you as a parent. And for the kid. This year has been difficult for Liam in many ways. I think he became cognitively aware of the fact that the sun doesn’t rise and set on his command. He also became staggeringly aware of the fact that he isn’t always the smartest, or the cutest, or the most loved (except to his mother). And that losing, is in fact, just as easy as winning and that he won’t always be the winner. Not an easy lesson to learn when you’re five and you don’t have the emotional maturity to understand that. Watching your kid grow physically is mind blowing enough; between 4 and 5 they grow like weeds. But I didn’t think the emotional growth would take such a toll on both of us. He has grown from the gregarious, crazy, attention seeking, over-the-top-playful boy (whom I absolutely adored because I am ALL those things) into a sensitive, contemplative, lovable someone who over thinks everything, asks intelligent questions before answering, loves hugs and cuddles but doesn’t invade your space without asking kinda kid. He is still however loud, noisy, crazy and VERY naughty mischievous when the need arises. He cries easily and his feeling are hurt easily and I’ve only just discovered after 5 years of parenting that he, in fact, is not the overtly extroverted kid that I thought he was. Mind blown. He teaches me something new about himself, and about myself, on the daily. As I discover what makes him tick, it feels like playing Pass the Parcel, where every new layer reveals an awesome surprise.

Today is a big day. He leaves our amazing little preschool, where he has been for 4 years, to go off into the big world. This may seem like nothing to the next person. I mean there are many more exciting things he gets to look forward to like high school and hair in places that-shall-not-be-named and leaving home and getting married and having kids and all that REALLY amazing stuff. But for me, as his mother, this beats all those things because THIS thing, this going to big school thing, THIS is the very first time he does something on his own. This is the first time I let my child walk away. This is the first time I consciously decide to loosen the apron strings. Just a little.

I could quote you some C.Day-Lewis (still one of my favourites, read it) at this point about letting go, but as we got to school this morning Hedley comes on the radio and it was THE most fitting song for Liam’s Graduation Day.

Son, you are amazing, you are wonderful, you are loved, you are someone to ME. You can do ANYTHING. I stand behind you 100%. All day, err’day. For the rest of your life and mine. Go get ’em. Here’s our BIG SCHOOL anthem:

Christmas giveaway with Mysmartkid


The nice people over at Mysmartkid asked if I’d like to give away a prize on the blog. Now I don’t just promote willy nilly on the blog, unless I recommend it myself and unless I think you could truly benefit from it. And that’s why I agreed.

So essentially, Mysmartkid is a subscription-based continuity programme. Every two months, you’ll get a delightful box delivered to your home with age appropriate toys, tools and play-based activities for your child. The box is packed with amazing stuff which will assist with the reaching of key development milestones and promote school  readiness. It will cost you R295 every two months, and the programme is offered in both English and Afrikaans, suitable for children aged 0 – 6 years old.

Now why I like Mysmartkid:

1. You already know I LOVE online shopping. The idea of an educational box of goodies delivered to my kid every two months without me having to so much as lift a finger, presses all my right buttons.

2. The fact that the box is specifically chosen with MY child in mind gives me peace of mind. You know, going into a toy or book store and selecting stuff that you “think” will be appropriate can be quite mind boggling. There is SO much on the market and buying ONE toy/ educational item can easily cost R300. When my kids were younger, after sickness my next biggest concern was whether my kids were being stimulated enough. Was I providing a good environment for them to learn and grow? Was I doing enough to stretch their little minds, what toys were best, was I wasting money on toys that didn’t really work and on and on it went. Mysmartkid sends this box FULL of goodness for your child which is perfectly appropriate according to their age and gender. And R295 every two months for the WHOLE pack? That’s a bargain!

3. If you aren’t entirely satisfied with the programme, they promise you a 100% money back guarantee. They believe in this programme so much, that they are willing to give you your money back if you aren’t convinced. I like that a lot.

So it’s almost Christmas and we’re all on the look out for gifts and goodies to pop under the tree. I’m  giving one lucky reader the chance to win a x 1 Mysmartkid smartbox filled with educational toys and activities, custom made for your kid. If you don’t have children in this age bracket in your immediate life, this is the perfect birthday gift or even baby shower gift! Give a child the perfect Christmas box, a Smartbox!

All you have to do in order to qualify is leave a comment telling me about YOUR smart kid: how old is your little man/lady? What is their most favourite thing to do in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD (as my 4 year old loves to say). 

Also just for fun, go like Mysmartkid on Facebook here.

Winners will be drawn by Random.org on Wednesday, 26th November 2014.

Smartbox with owl backpack

We got into our school of choice!


So you guys know from this post that we were awaiting the outcome of our Grade R application for next year. Well I received the call to say that Liam had been accepted and that we need to come in with him for a little induction in about a month’s time. I am so relieved I cannot even articulate it properly. Like a huge weight has been lifted. Like I have one less thing keeping me up at night. Like when we’re at the school parties and all the conscientious parents are going on and on about how they’ve been on a list for years and their kid was accepted years ago and I just keep quiet because the only list my kid is on is his current class register. Now I can say, “oh my kid has a school” and roll my eyes dramatically like having a school was something we had thought about years ago.

Then I made the mistake of telling Liam that the big school had called and hooray he can go there. Rookie error, I admit, but I wanted him to be excited about it too and also I just could not keep this sort of good news to myself. The kid wants to do a countdown of how many sleeps until big school. He wants me to explain how long a year takes (it’s less than a year but I had to give him a timeframe to work with). So I counted in months because 8 months just sounds closer than a gazillion sleeps, right? Anyway, a part of me is happy that he knows and we have all this time to prepare him mentally and emotionally for this change which is sure to bring about mixed emotions for him.

He has only ever been at one school since he was 20 months old (we don’t talk about that horrible little school we dumped him in for a few months when he was just 18 months old.) So making friends wasn’t an issue really, he just grew up with the same group of kids and they have become fast friends because they’ve known each other since forever. Same thing with church: he has moved up with the same bunch of kids since he was 1. Yes, kids come and go, but he has his special church friends. He hasn’t had to go out there on his own and start over and actively MAKE friends. I am little worried about this, I won’t lie. Also, a lot of the class would have moved up together from Grade 00 so I think he will feel quite odd to begin with, so I’m glad I have this time to prepare him for that. He is an extrovert so I am not unduly worried, my anxiety stems more from the fact that he hasn’t been in this situation before, so I really don’t know how he’ll cope/react. But I’m trusting God that he’ll be FINE.

So now we face the next challenge.. making it all work. This school isn’t up the road. It will mean two different drop offs in the morning before I need to be at work. It will also mean leaving work during the day to take them home.. I am not paying for aftercare at this stage when I have a full time live in helper. Also aftercare is so darn expensive! So yes, I am going to drive A LOT. But of course we thought about and agreed on all these things before we signed up for this, so we know what we are in for. Also hoping that my hours will change as of next year – this discussion is already underway. At the very worst, this will be only for a year. Once Hannah and him are together, it will be easier of  course.

Right now, I am just grateful that he has somewhere to go and that he is correctly positioned for where we want him to complete his primary school career. Also, I am taking donations for anyone who wants to contribute to the hefty deposit/placement fee we need to pay, any ‘ol soul who feels like they want to just throw some money my way, I’m your girl.

lee and rocky