Tag Archives: Big school

#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!

 

 

 

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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!

Bringing you up to speed.


Hello! Happy New Year!

This could possibly be the longest I have stayed away. I hate these catch up posts, how can you possibly cram December holidays, Christmas, New year, Big School, ALL the extra murals, ALL the homework, losing our long term helper, looking after my own house, the start of 2015… all into one post? You just can’t. It won’t do any of it justice. But I shall try…

In the words of the king in Alice in Wonderland:

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”  

So the beginning. We had a very chilled Christmas. My Favourite People AKA my sister and her family spent the holidays with us and we did very little else, other than chill. We rang in the New Year over board games and biryani and hoped that the year which lay ahead would be as calm as the way we had welcomed it in.

Not so and we’re only 30 days in.

After five years, we decided that we no longer needed live-in help. With both kids being older and out of the house all day, my hours slightly more flexible and a medium sized house… we couldn’t justify having full time help anymore. So we said goodbye to Zoleka who has been a faithful and loyal helper. “Keeping house” isn’t as disastrous as I thought it would be. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know I don’t really like housework. I’m the youngest of four kids, I had older siblings to do all the dirty work, and then I married a man who isn’t afraid of housework so I’ve never really had to clean up after people. And then we had zoleka since the kids were little, so except on the odd occasion and during the holidays, I didn’t really ever have to wash, iron, sweep, scrub and all those other swear words associated with cleaning. But this is a blog post all on it’s own. I’ll share how I “keep house” and I’d be keen to hear how everyone else does it. It’s been just over three weeks and I still haven’t called on my “piece-job” helper who I have on standby for once a week deep cleaning because we’ve been managing quite OK so far.

Then Big School. Guys, it’s like a mine field. New teachers, new rules, new schedules, new routines. Everyday is different, and everyday requires a different something-something that he needs to take, or that he needs to remember. Again, I will blog about this separately and in that post I will add a photo of my monthly calendar and what it looks like! Just today we had to remember library book, tuck money, swimming clothes and show and tell item. That’s besides homework book, reading book and word book, and the little gift for the student teacher who finishes off today, while making a note of what time school finishes today – because he finishes a different time most days depending on the extra mural. I feel a bit frazzled, I won’t lie. The good news is that he is doing SO well. Again,  I will post about this in a school post, but can I just say how HAPPY I am that we held him back and that he is repeating Grade R with children who are all his age. And oh yes, he has the edge, just like all you know-it-all moms who said so! He already has private reading lessons with the principal and he is just flourishing.

Hannah, my little Rose, continues to blossom. Milestone of milestones, she opted to do ballet this term and wait for it… wanted to wear a PINK skirt and leotard. My Hannah? Doing ballet and wearing pink! The tomboy has not completely disappeared, don’t worry… but she has stopped painting with her kiddie eye shadow and started putting it on her face. ALL over a face so that she looks like something out of KISS:

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 My Reader frightens me… I haven’t read a blog post in over 6 weeks so if you’ve missed my essay long comments on your blog, don’t take it personally! I think I’m going to delete all and just start from scratch because being so far behind is giving my OCD filter the heebeejeebies. 

I know it’s late, but I do wish you all a wonderful 2015. I don’t do a word for the year and all that stuff but I do have personal aspirations all which revolve around not being so busy this year. Creating time to be the best mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend I can be and not waste time on the things that are inconsequential. And it really isn’t that hard to do. Remember, there’s a difference between good-busy and bad-busy and last year was full of bad-busy for me. This year I’m all about the good-busy!

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:

Big School Application underway…


Today is the day I submit the application pack for Liam’s big school. My stomach is actually in knots. You see, this is it. There’s no second choice. This is IT. If he doesn’t get in here, I’m not really sure WHAT we are going to do. So this HAS.TO.BE.IT.

If you’ve been reading a while, you’ll know that Liam is in Grade R this year. Both him and Hannah go to a preschool (which I LOVE LOVE LOVE) which ends at Grade R and then you have to leave. Boo hoo, I wish they could just stay there forever.  He is, however, very young. He has just turned five, which means he is a year ahead of where he should be. So in order for him to be 6 turning 7 in the year he enters Grade 1, he will repeat Grade R next year. Now, if you remember, I did have my issues with this… I think he is smart enough to enter Grade 1 next year. I think he is emotionally ready purely because I think he is on par with his peers who WILL enter Grade 1 next year. I sincerely think he would have been fine in Grade 1 next year. Hashtag Just Saying. However (and I know Cat will be happy with this!) I’ve decided that that extra year will do him no harm – it will be to his benefit in fact. He’ll be none the wiser, he is moving schools so it’s not like his friends move on and he stays behind, it’s still a new experience for him. Also, he’ll be the same age as his peers, he’ll participate in sports and extra murals with the correct age group, he’ll have a whole year on his peers (having repeated Grade R) so he should be the most brightest and most cleverest and most wonderful boy there (I need to work on this competitive thing, I really do). I’m kidding. The main reason is that I want him to be in the best position to feed into the big school we have chosen. And his best chance of this, is if he attends the preschool which feeds into that primary school – because we do not live in the catchment area and this automatically puts us on the B list and I simply cannot take that chance. No ways.

The primary school is government and because we are going government, I’ve really put a lot of time and energy in selecting a GOOD one.. however, the preschool is privately run and the fees are HECTIC. AND its half day. AND they only get a mid morning snack. Where they are now, although the fees are high, it’s full day and they get breakfast and lunch and two snacks in between. This also means that I’ll have TWO school drop offs because Hannah will stay where she is for another year. It’s going to be quite a change (and challenge) to our routine. BUT, it’s a great school. And that is all. I am willing to make sacrifices NOW in order to make sure this kid gets the education I so desire for him (at a rate I can afford!).

So this is why I’m feeling all sorts of anxious this morning. He HAS to get into this school. I may or may not have overdone it with the application and made it pretty with colourful tabs and a lovely folder and fancy paper clips and a letter of recommendation from MYSELF about my OWN kid. His current principal has assured me that she will make a call and give him (and us) a further glowing report. I’ve prayed over this application and I’m THIS close to spraying my perfume on it – kind of like a love letter. I’m JOKING. Relax.

So hold thumbs for me. I mean for Liam. Who would have thought that big school would be so stressful?

Ps: can someone explain to me, the reason that schools request such a LARGE sum of money as a NON REFUNDABLE application fee?? What do they use that money for? I mean WHAT is the purpose of the application fee? You paying to submit a whole lot of papers basically? And if your child is rejected you don’t even get it back! WAH! And who’s to say that they don’t  just keep accepting applications even though they know they are full, in order to cash up with the NON REFUNDABLE application fee? I don’t know, can someone explain this to me?

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