Getting ready for big school next year!

Barry Bateman Family Portraits Dec 2012By Sholain Govender-Bateman – Pretoria-based New Media journalism lecturer, former The Star and Pretoria News journalist & editor of magazines. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry Bateman. Twitter @sholain 

It’s happened, Isobel is turning 7 next May which means that the transition to ‘big school’ has begun…for me. Of course, she’s thrilled with the prospect of meeting new friends, swimming in the big school pool and having loads of new adventures. I’m a bit more frazzled, especially after the run-up to the Grade 1 year that hubby and I have had.

The school prep started a few years ago with online searches for suitable primary schools. I had heard from so many other parents that you need to get your kid onto a waiting list/s if you didn’t want her losing a valued spot at a specific school. I excitedly sent queries through to as many private schools in the Pretoria area as I could…and when I got the fees lists back, I had a series of mini panic attacks.

We decided to keep our options open, there’s no way of knowing if we’d be millionaires by 2014/5!?

The next hurdle was getting the whole age thing right. All I could recall was that I started school at the age of 5. I actually know of people who planned their kids’ birth dates based on how it would affect their school progress meaning will the child be too young for their class year or too mature.

Having contacted a few highly recommended government schools previously, I was already aware that we were not in the feeder area of our first choice school. Then, when filling out application forms, I realised how valued space in these schools were. We had to provide heaps of certified documents, queue at Home Affairs for an unabridged birth certificate, collect proof of bond payments, lease agreements, letters from employers and more before the big day of handing in the application forms. We were number 2 on the B waiting list of our first choice school last year, and still didn’t get her in for Grade R there so this year we kept it simple and went for the school we qualify for, even though hubby and I don’t even go to that area of the suburb and it’s the opposite direction to our both work areas.

The day applications opened, I got to the school at 6.30am expecting to battle for a place in a long queue amongst hoards of other parents anxious for those prized spots. I must say, it was a bit of an anti-climax when I arrived at the one school to find that I was the first parent there.

We’re happy that Isobel is basically guaranteed the number one spot at our first choice. Proud to be a good mum and dad, we can relax for now…until the next parental hurdle appears. I just wonder what happens to the little children whose parents just didn’t bother even showing up to collect application forms…?

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Why I decided to homeschool

Mia-Von-Scha-kids2-150x150By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

This was not the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make. I love my work. I love my kids. Not necessarily in that order. Making the decision to homeschool is not for everyone, and although I definitely thought it was for me, I knew it would involve some major changes both to my life and the rest of my family. So why did I do it?

Let me start by saying we were on our 5th school by the time I pulled my kids out of the system. I finally had to admit that I was never going to find a school that I liked because I didn’t agree with school in general. At heart I am both a rebel and a non-conformist and I find the system in general oppressive to creativity, limiting to an above average child, draining on a child’s natural energy and love of learning, and on the whole unnatural (I really don’t believe that any child was designed to sit for 5 hours or more a day).

On top of that I had some particular challenges to deal with, specific to my own children. Both my kids have what is clinically termed as “tactile defensiveness” but which I prefer to call being more attuned to your environment than everyone else! It means that they find certain textures and fabrics absolutely unbearable. School uniforms were a nightmare. My daughter cried at least once a day through the whole of Grade One just because the uniform was bothering her. And for the life of me I could not think of a good reason to give her as to why she had to wear it.

Along with this heightened sensitivity comes an aversion to too much noise. A classroom is not the easiest place to concentrate for any child, but for one who struggles with excess noise it is virtually impossible.

And to top it off, both my girls are particularly bright (they both score 3-5 years above their age group on all developmental assessments) and extremely creative. School is simply not set-up for the gifted child (and by the way, I see all children as gifted – it just takes someone with time and love to find out what their gifts are). They were bored and frustrated at having to continually work below their abilities.

We were also unfortunate enough to encounter some very uninspired teachers along the way – teachers who have no intention of going the extra mile, who are not interested in finding out what the children’s values are and communicating to them in a way that will inspire them, who have lost their own love of learning and are slowly killing it in the children in their care. We did, of course, come across some amazing teachers too, but they were sadly in the minority.

My kids, particularly the eldest, hated school. In Grade One! I personally loved school until I got to the higher grades, and I couldn’t imagine going through 13 years of hating a system and feeling there was no escape. I was lucky enough to know a few people already homeschooling and was able to see the joy and love of learning that had been reinstated in these homes, and I felt inspired. I figured that there was no way that I could do a worse job than some of the teachers we’d encountered, and at least whatever I did would be done with love.

Of course, I am at an advantage. For a start, both my husband and I work for ourselves so we’re both fairly flexible. I’ve also studied both Child Psychology and Education as part of my BA degree. And I’ve trained in coaching which included a lot of information on how the brain works, how we process information, and more importantly how we learn. So although I didn’t have a teaching diploma, I did feel confident that I could make it work. Not that it’s brain-science, mind you. If you relax and allow your children to guide you they’ll surprise you with how eager they are to absorb their worlds.

But it still wasn’t an easy decision. I had to completely overhaul the way that I work, as did my husband. We had an incredible learning curve trying to figure out what the curriculum was and how much of it we actually needed to adhere to. We had to teach ourselves to relax with complete uncertainty and an initial lack of structure. I’ve literally spent the last few months “unschooling” myself so that I can be open to how and what my children want to learn and fitting in with them instead of them having to fit in with some predetermined system.

Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? To see my children wake up after having had enough sleep, to not have to rush them through breakfast and force them into uncomfortable clothes, to allow them the freedom to move and eat and play and laugh and talk and be natural children, and to see them blossoming into eager learners filled with joy and curiosity… I’d say yes, it has.

Find out more about homeschooling options in Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal.

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5 reasons why you should homeschool your child

Willemien von SolmsBy Willemien von Solms, mom to 2 sons who loves travelling, has worked as a journalist, editor and communications specialist. Currently works as executive head: Products at  Impak Education, curriculum provider for homeschooling parents and centres.

A sound education offers the best springboard into the future. Therefore, the choice of a school is one of the most important decisions you as parent will ever make. In South Africa, a growing number of parents are choosing homeschooling over private or public schools. This choice is protected by law, as the South African Schools Act (Section 51 of Act 84 of 1996) gives parents the legal right to educate their children at home.

Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why you should consider homeschooling.

1. Investing time in your child’s emotional, social, physical & intellectual development
“Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.” – Anthony Douglas Williams, Inside the Divine Pattern. If you choose homeschooling, you take full responsibility for your child’s education and development, and accompany them on their journey to adulthood every single step of the way.

2. Flexibility to accommodate your child and family’s specific needs
A key feature of homeschooling is that children can progress at their own pace, in their own time. This allows you to accommodate your child’s and your family’s specific needs – ranging from frequent travelling for sport or performance commitments, language barriers, long distances to travel to and from school or a tragedy in the family, to a child who has trouble dealing with peer pressure or fitting into a rigid school system.

3. Control over the quality and content of your child’s curriculum
Homeschooling offers you the opportunity to make decisions about the content of your child’s curriculum. Research the various curriculum providers for homeschooling and choose the one that suits your circumstances, expectations, norms and values the best. A good curriculum provider will offer you the necessary material and assistance to guide your child through the education process, from Grade R to Grade 12.

4. Creating a safe environment in which your child can thrive
Receiving an education in the safe and familiar environment of the home provides a great educational experience for children – there is no more exposure to negative peer pressure or bullying, and no compromise is necessary on religious or moral beliefs. In addition, children in a homeschooling environment work individually, measuring themselves against their own performance and not a class average. As such, homeschooled learners identify their own strengths and weaknesses. They always have to take responsibility for their performance and they quickly learn that the outcome of their work equals their input.

5. Have fun!
It is such a privilege to spend the day with your child, be a part of their learning process and see the awe on their faces as they discover more about the world. Enjoy this time that you have together and keep your lessons fun. The opportunity to explore your child’s interests and strengths is a fascinating journey – treasure it.

Find out more about homeschooling options in Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids

Dealing with your child’s school report

Mia Von Scha &kids

By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

I guess I was lucky at school to be one of those straight A students, as I can still remember the absolute dread with which many of my friends received their report cards at the end of the year. Not that they cared too much about the marks themselves – it was the fear of facing their disappointed parents that caused the term-end blues. So heading towards that dreaded day, what can we do as parents to help our kids to address any problem areas without damaging their self-esteem or love of learning?

I think the answer to this comes in looking at what a report card really is. First off, it is NOT a measure of who your child is as a person. They may have failed the year, but they are not a failure. As parents we really have to help our kids to make the distinction between who they are and what they do, and the best way to do this is to express our unconditional love for them no matter what the report card says.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

A report is simply a measure of how a child managed to perform on certain standardized tests. If they come back with a low mark, it does not help to attack them for their “laziness” or anything else. What we need to do is assess what went wrong where. And this may even have nothing to do with the child themselves – it may be that the teacher was incompetent, or the test was not an accurate measure of what was learned, or it may be a reflection of other issues – family problems, changes at home or at school, bullying… there are so many things going on in our children’s lives that we will miss if we simply blame them without digging deeper.

On the other hand, we also need to be careful of over-praising a child with a “good” report. Once again, the report is not a measure of who the child is or their worthiness of our love and attention. Many over-achievers get the idea early on that they are only loved if they perform well and this sets them up for a life of stress and workaholism! The opposite may also be true, with children who are praised for good work giving up sooner or never even trying things that they may not be good at for fear of losing this “good girl/boy” status.

The appropriate response to a report card, in my opinion, is to ask the child what they think about their own report. Ask them how they feel about areas they struggled in and how you could assist them. Ask them how they feel about areas they did well in and if they need any additional stimulation. Use the report card as a discussion around what is going on in their lives and at school, and not as a measure of their self worth. If they have failed something, it is a great opportunity to discuss some of the great failures in history and how they never gave up.

And regardless of what it says, give them as big hug and a kiss and tell them you love them no matter what.

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The school dilemma – taking action


by Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life

Shakira Sheikh recently wrote an article for Jozikids on the difficulties in finding a school for Grade 1, which clearly resonated with many of you on a very deep level. I also have kids both in Grade R and Grade 1 and so empathise deeply with this struggle. It is natural to feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness at the current lack of schools, and yet the best solution I have found to these feelings has always been taking action.

Here are some ideas to get you going…

-       Homeschooling is always one option to look at, and if you spend some time online you will find many homeschooling groups where mother’s get together and support each other and help their kids to socialize.

-       A private tutor is another option, and while this may at first seem outside of your financial reach, if there are so many mothers in the same situation (and it certainly sounds like there are) why not join together and hire someone for a group of kids – look for a retired teacher or two looking for part-time work.

-       Look up and support local NPOs who are working to resolve this problem. A great one that I found recently is, who are looking at setting up free educational programs that can be accessed online, specifically with the aim of alleviating the current lack of good teachers in the country.

-       Speak to local businesses and schools about joining together in initiatives to create new classrooms and sponsor more teachers.

-       Raise awareness of the issue – speak to your local radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. Write to the relevant governmental departments. Protest.

-       Call the government to task on this and on the general issue of how your tax money is being spent. Start a petition. Email them daily.

-       VOTE. When local and national elections come around, make sure you are in the voting queue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about the state of the roads/schools/healthcare and yet they chose not to vote when the time came. If you’re not happy with what the current government is doing, vote them out.

-       Contact your Ward Councilor, explain the problem you’re having and brainstorm solutions. Call a meeting in your area.

These are just a few ideas to get you going, but chat with your friends in the same situation and see what other ideas you can come up with. Share them here too and get this conversation going. Remember that complaining about an issue takes time and energy – the same time and energy can be spent in working towards solutions.

There is a lovely quote by Lily Tomlin that is quite apt in this situation:

“I said, ‘Somebody should do something about that’. Then I realized, I am somebody”.

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Finding a school for Grade 1- what a mission!

shakira&boys thumbnailby Shakira Sheikh, devoted mom to 2 beautiful boys who loves cooking, crafting and working for Jozikids and Kznkids

My husband and I recently moved from Durban to Joburg with our 2 little boys, one of whom is approaching Grade 1. When we started looking for a school for him we had no idea what we would have to go through. WOW what a mission, what a process!  We’re still in it and waiting. This is what we’ve had to do so far:

Move homes
We researched and found 2 schools we were interested in. After discovering that they only accepted pupils living within a certain km radius, we decided to move homes to be closer to the schools. Lucky for us we found one  close to both.

Endless documentation
We had to fetch application packs from each school and then collect extensive boys3documentation for both parents with certified copies of Ids, birth certificates, clinic cards, proof of residence and then initialize every page.

Start queueing at 4am or camp out!
The schools set aside 3 days for submissions which they say they only accept on a first come first served basis. This  means that if you are number 13 in the queue your child will be number 13 on the list.

When I queried this with the schools, I was told most parents start lining up outside the schools from about 4 am to ensure they are first on the list

So we found a family member to look after our kids while my hubby and I went to wait in line at 4am. We each chose a different school.  When I got there I was no 3 while he  found he was no 6 in line already!

I discovered that most of the other parents queueing with me had done the same as us. Their partners were also waiting in line at other schools in the region, with some who had  people  who had camped out the night before.

Thank goodness the gates at the school opened for submissions at 5.30 am.  When it was my turn however I discovered I had another questionnaire to fill out, one the Education Department had forgotten to insert in the original submissions packs.

At least I managed to get it all done.  What a relief that stage one is over

Waiting game begins
It’s over but its not, as we were told that we have another 4 months to wait, before we will know whether  our son has been accepted or not.  What happens to those who aren’t?  Do they have to start all over again?

The lengths we as parents have to go to make sure we get the best for our kids. Why does it have to be so hard? What about parents that can’t move houses and find someone to look after their kids so they can queue at 4am? This really doesn’t seem fair

What do you think and can you relate to my experience? Is it the same in other parts of the country outside of Gauteng?

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Are your kids getting too much homework?

Mia Von Scha &kidsby Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life

Homework is an essential part of learning independent work and self-discipline… and I think that kids are getting far too much of it. Homework should be given out with this specific purpose in mind and not because there is so much schoolwork that it can’t fit in to the school day.

If kids are getting too much, it is your responsibility as a parent to take a stand. Get together with other parents in your child’s class and have something to say about it.  Play, fresh air, fun and down-time are as important to a child’s development as formalised learning and discipline, particularly in the Foundation and Intersen Phases.

This fits in to what I have said before about too many extra murals: Children, like all human beings, need time to be – not busy performing or excelling or proving their worth, just being.

Photo from

So how much is too much? If you look logically at the typical day of a school child this should become obvious:

6am-7am Waking and getting ready for school

7am-2pm School time

2pm-3pm Sport / extra murals

5pm-7pm Dinner, bathing etc.

7pm-8pm Story time or quiet time

8pm-6am Sleep (children of 7-10 years need around 10-11 hours per night)

This only leaves between 3pm-5pm for homework AND games, TV time, outdoor time, playdates etc. I would say that anything more than around half an hour per day is unreasonable at Primary School level, and certainly not more than an hour.

Look logically at your child’s day and make sure there is always down-time, unscheduled time, time to just be.

Life needs to be in balance and we need to help our kids with this by not overscheduling their time, by taking a stand on homework and by modeling this for our kids by getting enough rest and down-time ourselves.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.

Parenting help and quality pre-schools with 24/7 internet monitoring

If you haven’t discovered it yet, is the most up to date and detailed resource for parents in the Gauteng region to find what you need including events, activities, venues, parties and lessons. You’ll also find us on your cell phone, twitter and Facebook.

Opti-Baby Open Day, Midrand, Oct 6, Nov 3, Rosebank 26 + 27 Oct. Opti- Baby and Kids provides a combination of world class early childhood development (ECD) integrated into 7:00am-5:30pm day care for 0-5 year olds at wonderful, secure, and convenient facilities. These schools cater for babies from 6 weeks until 5 years old and are all Internet Monitored.  Therefore Parents can monitor their little one from work to have total peace of mind. Currently there are 4 branches in Johannesburg and 4 branches in Pretoria, with another 2 to open in Johannesburg and another 2 branches in Pretoria – February 2013.

Special Deal:
Fantastic special deal on the Jozikids Website – If Parents enrol now before the 14th of December, they will pay only R1000 registration fee instead of the R2200.00 registration fee. All the open-days are listed on the Opti-Baby website, and Parents must print the Jozi-Kids deal voucher and bring it with.

Internet Security Course, Ladybird, Orange Grove, Joburg, Oct 7, 10-12.30, parents and teens. Learn how to use the internet safely, know how to avoid scams or threats of cyber net I.D. fraud, know how to protect your children. Koos Herselman, a stress and trauma consultant, shows us how to implement internet security in our daily lives.

Taking the Blues out of Bullying, Equal Zeal Centurion, Oct 4-5. The main outcomes of the workshop includes your child learning:
•The essence of popularity and friendship
•Why it is important to have empathy for a bully
•Definitions of bullying
•The difference between bullying and just fooling around
•To take responsibility for actions
•To choose how to respond to bullies
•Empowering techniques to use when in a bullying situation
•Stress relieving techniques

Tools for Kids and Teens, Bella Vida Bryanston, Oct 4,5. Kids will learn valuable and useful tools for life to unlock their ability to deal with life in a pro-active and dynamic way. There will be rol-playing, interactions, group discussions and guidance.

Adoptmom is coming to Joburg, Green Genes, Craighall Park, Oct 8, 6.30-8pm.  Infertility and adoption talk. Coping with the emotions of infertility problems and looking at adoption as an option

Discover Your Potential Study Skills Sandton, Sep 30 for Gr 4-12, Sandton. The Foundation for Excellent Learning-The course will be presented by Noel Grey, a specialist remedial teacher, who trained in London and is currently teaching at a top private school in Johannesburg. In her own words, “These skills are essential and every child should be taught how to learn.” Learning Styles,Self Esteem,Organisational Skills, Time Management, Goal Setting, Note Taking Skills,Exam Techniques.

Is my child ready for big school?

By Brenda Leeman, devoted mommy to Connor, aged 3, a Registered Counsellor with a passion for helping children. Runs  Chameleon Play Therapy Centre which offers School Readiness Assessments.

My child is old enough for school; why doesn’t that mean he’s ready for school? I’m sure the answer to that is obvious when you look at the vast difference between those children excelling in grade 1 and those who are struggling.  Here are some issues and tools you should consider when making your decision.

School Readiness Testing

What this describes is a test that will give parents an indication of what kind of school to put their children in, what level of functioning they can expect from their children for the first year of school, and, most importantly, an idea of their child’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to schoolwork. All these factors can then be taken into consideration in order for families to create a supportive study programme catering specifically to their child’s needs.

When looking for the right school for your child check out:

A School’s Reputation
Talk to the parents of children currently attending the school. If parents are happy with their child’s school, they are usually more than happy to sing its praises. (I know I do.) You know exactly what special attention your child needs, so ask questions related specifically to this.

Role Of the Teachers
A very important factor when deciding is understanding the role of the teachers. Your child will be spending a great deal of their time next year with their new teacher, possibly even more time than they spend with you. It is so imperative that your child has a good relationship with their teachers, as this promotes an unthreatening environment for the child to raise their concerns. Children are more likely to tell a teacher that they don’t understand something if they know the teacher will provide unconditional acceptance and support in response. Talk to the Grade 1 teachers at the school before deciding to put your child in their care.  This is definitely the time to use your “gut feelings” – you will know if your child is in good hands or not.

Extra Murals
An added bonus for any school, is the availability of extra-curricular physical activities. Your child should have the opportunity to not only work their mind, but their body too. The benefits of sport are innumerable. Physical activities will calm an anxious child down and improve their self-confidence. These skills can be channelled back into the classroom in order to promote academic achievement.

Focus on the facts to reduce anxiety at school

by Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

It’s back to school time again, and looking back on my own school history I can definitely remember a fair amount of anxiety mixed in with the excitement of seeing my friends after a long winter break.

Had I known then what I know now, I know that the simple exercise of separating fact and fiction could have had a huge impact on my back-to-school blues. Which is why I share it with you now…

When it comes to judging an event and how we’re going to react to it emotionally, it is definitely time to separate fact from fiction, and to help your kids to get into the habit of doing this too.

Fact: I have to go back to school tomorrow.
Fiction: This term is going to be just as bad as the last one.

Fact: I failed the test.
Fiction: I am a failure.

Fact: I only have one friend at school at the moment.
Fiction: Nobody loves me.

It may seem obvious when we write it out like this, but almost all adults, and the majority of kids are doing this all the time. Stress, negative feelings, bad news, these don’t come from the situation itself but from your interpretation of it. And kids need to learn to reserve judgement on situations and particularly on what other people say about them.

No matter how good a parent you are at home, your kids have to go out to school and into the world where not everyone is as conscious as you about their effect on other people. Kids need to be resilient and judge situations on fact not fiction.

If someone says something nasty about your child, you need to prime your kid to not take it on – to accurately assess it as someone else’s fiction and go with the facts of who they know they are. For example, if one child says to another, as they do, “You are a poophead”, and your child is upset, use this as an opportunity to get them into the habit of assessing the situation by saying, “Are you a poophead? NO. Your friend is probably just upset…

Fact: Your friend called you a poophead.
Fiction: You are a poophead!

This little skill gives kids control over their emotions and reactions in any situation, including the first day back at school.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.