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20 August 2010

Trixi's HomeEd Academy

We have a very active, yet highly intelligent 7 year old, who has been struggling through school for the past 2 years. It has recently come to our attention that his gross & fine motor skills foundation has not been addressed properly at a Gr. R level. He is also a kinaesthetic, visual spatial & active learner & this learning style is not catered for in most of our schools today. He hated school, was always tired & homework time was a major frustration for both of us.

Clive had been encouraging me to homeschool the boys for 3 years, but I just didn't think I was capable. I'm not a teacher, or so I thought... but I finally relented because Tannie Hette suggested we bring him home for a year to sort out his foundation & then he could go back to school.

“A mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air.” ~ Charlotte Mason

And that’s where the “system” failed our little one quite miserably…

Already in Grade R we called on Tannie Hettie to help, because by end of August, he still didn’t know his alphabet. Within 3 weeks with 1 hour at Hettie, twice a week, he knew half of it & by the end of the year he had it all. During this time hubby started suggesting home education, but I resisted because I just didn’t feel confident that I would be able to do it. I figured, I’d probably strangle him in a week because we were always frustrated & irritable when doing homework.

But then in Grade 1 teacher insisted he needed speech therapy, so that’s what he got. But it didn’t end there, because speech therapy just caused more confusion. After 3 months the teacher figured we should switch him over to remedial lessons instead. During this time of course it was suggested that he does extra lessons. Needless to say, the remedial  lessons (at additional cost to us as parents) produced no results & extra lessons were just adding to his stress.  I went back to Hettie. Once again, he went to her twice a week for an hour after school. But the poor kid was so exhausted, by the time I got back to fetch him she’d mention he was just too tired to really work with, although she did still manage to produce results. At the end of Grade 1 we decided to cancel remedial as well as extra lessons & depended on Hettie entirely to help him. However, he was still tired after school & extra murals, so we reduced it to once a week, but instead of giving more work, she would work with him doing his homework so that he didn’t still have to do that when he got home. It helped a lot, but left little time for her to work with him on movement & motor skills.

With a push & a shove, we managed to get him through grade 1,  but the struggle didn’t end there. He continued to go to Hettie once a week & was making good improvement, but whilst working with him doing his homework one day I noticed that he would “read” words on one page but wasn’t able to recognise them on another. That’s when we realised something was seriously wrong…He kept on insisting that teacher would read to them first & then they would read. What they didn’t realise though, was that he could memorise a page hearing it only once.  he became more & more fidgety in class.

After my neck operation in June, hubby insisted we look into home education as an option, even if just for a short term to get him up to standard, thus I took the school holiday & started some serious investigation in to home education. After the holiday his teacher (a very highly qualified remedial teacher at that) once again requested that we to give him medication for his “lack of concentration”.

Finally we decided to let Hettie stop working with him on his homework. I asked her to go back to the basics & find the problem. Turns out he couldn’t skip a skipping rope, tie his shoe laces or cross his midlines & he remembered nothing of what he should have learnt in Grade R. It seems the school focused too early & too much on academics & neglected the motor skills as well as visual perception. Midline crossing & skipping, being very important skills for fluent reading are just 2 of many areas that have not been addressed properly. Although he can memorise paragraphs, like a parrot, he struggles to read. He Aced his spelling tests but couldn’t spell them when writing sentences. These are just a few of the issues we’ve been working on together with his pre-school teacher to get him through Gr. 2. Up to now he’s been able to cope with his intelligence, but the struggling has impacted his self-esteem very negatively & caused him to dislike school with a passion & homework for us, became an endless battle.

Although the school tried to address the problem with remedial & extra lessons, these showed very little success, but instead placed extra workload & repetition rather than addressing the foundation of the problem… hence we’ve took him back to Hettie Hen Playgroup twice a week since August last year so she could do physical activities & brain gym with him in order to get the brain development going. This has shown huge improvement, but his backlog is so big that he still gets very fidgety in class when he doesn’t understand the tasks at hand.

We met with the principal to discuss the problem & check what they’d do to resolve it, but his reply was that they’d support us in whatever we decided. In the end the teacher was expecting myself & Hettie to work at resolving the foundational problems, in order for him to pass his grade. By then I was at the end of my tether. I think I hated homework time more than he did. Due to the amount of stress caused by school pressure, Hettie & I felt it would be more productive doing this if we removed him from school & this is were our journey in to home education began…

“Every student can learn. Just not on the same day or in the same way.” ~ George Evans

We know now that Misha’s just a normal active little boy who’s trying to cope with a situation that’s way beyond his control. We were just blessed with one of those “round kids” that doesn’t fit into the “square holes”, but refused to accept the labels, & instead, removed him from the “square hole” environment & since he’s been home his reading has improved although he still hates it. He’s getting A’s on his Smart Tutor English & Maths Lessons but absolutely hates filling out the worksheets. He’s a much happier & healthier child, but still has a very long way to go… & yes, three months later both of us are still very much alive, because the stress release on both sides has enabled me to be more patient & tolerable.

We’ve recently registered him with Le-Amen Education Centre in Ruimsig & have pulled him out of school on Friday. What I like about Le-Amen is that they are registered with the Gauteng education department and they supply the curriculum at very reasonable prices. The kids’ work books have to be handed in 3 times a year to be monitored by qualified teachers & at the end of the school year they issue school reports to the children. Both parent & kids are monitored & at matric level they write the same IEB exams as the private schools.

We used the first week to let him destress & deschool. In the interim he’ll be using Time4learning online curriculum to put the fun back into learning. Then we’ll continue his schooling, but will also have to go back as far as Gr. R in order to address his foundation. I just hope we caught it on time to repair the damage & that we will be able to help him reach his full potential in life.

“Mothers write on the hearts of their children what the hand of time can’t erase.” (Unknown)

When I look at the amount of kids in our schools that end up in remedial & extra lessons, I cannot help but wonder how many of them are highly intelligent kids, like Misha, whose foundations have been proved lacking & due to that will be struggling through school for the rest of their lives. I just cannot understand how it is possible in today’s day & age, with all the knowledge available to our teachers regarding the importance of physical activities being the foundation to develop brain functions in our little ones that they still let them sit cooped up in classrooms with academics all day at such a young age. Our little ones should be playing more & learning less, the academics will follow as soon as the body is sorted.

I must confess, I’ve spent months stressing about Misha’s situation & was fuming, when the teacher’s plan to resolve this issue was aimed at Misha’s preschool teacher & myself addressing the foundation in order to get him through Gr. 2. As far as I was concerned, we pay expensive school fees & he shouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place. Today, however, I can honestly say the burden’s lifted & I have peace in my heart that we’ve made the right decision for our boys.

“When we forgive someone, it doesn’t make them right or justify what they have done. It releases them into God’s hands so He can deal with them. Forgiveness is actually the best revenge because it not only sets us free from the person we forgive, but it sets us free to move into all God has for us.” ~ Stormie O’Martian

The school & their staff have been forgiven. I’m letting go & we’re moving forward. I pray for wisdom to make the right decisions in order to continuously guide our sons into reaching their full potential.

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