WARNING: VERY, VERY LONG POST AHEAD….
I have been investigating homeschooling ever since Hana arrived. Somewhere between business three and four, I got a bee in my bonnet to close down the entrepreneurial journey and focus my attention on educating the kids- I also knew that I was gifted in many things, patience with my kids not being one of them!
The reason for considering homeschooling? Safety was a big factor, our schools are a dangerous place, between the threat of teachers and kids, there are just too many scenarios of what can go wrong. Besides the facts that our schools are riddled with drugs, sexual predators and violence, the education standard and level of attention available to our kids, even at a private level, is way too inferior and rigid.
Regardless of my beliefs around mainstream school, taking the homeschool plunge was a tough choice, even after Hamza’s entire personality changed this year, our years of indoctrination of being made to believe that ‘mainstream and traditional is right because people have been doing it this way for thousands of years’, kept us from making the decision a whole lot sooner than we did.
Hamza started grade one this year at Stepping Stones, a well known Montessori pre school in town, that expanded to accommodate elementary level kids in 2016. I felt comforted by our decision to continue with Montessori in our primary years. The class had 16 kids aged between six and nine and the whole ‘child led” bullshit they fed us really made us believe that Hamza would be in the best environment possible, considering his free and often stubborn and very energetic spirit. Oh boy, how wrong we were.
He started out bright eyed and bushy tailed for the year ahead, but soon developed ‘tummy aches’ and ‘joint pains’ and kicked up a fuss in the mornings to get to school. I persevered, putting it down to the new routine and environment. He started coming home with complaints of teasing and name calling and when raised with the teachers, we were told that the kids doing the teasing were only joking and meant no harm by it. We were also told that our son struggled with waiting his turn to share in a class setting which was causing frustration amongst his peers and may be contributing towards the name calling.
Hamza, aged six, gets over excited in a social environment and struggles to wait for his turn! Sounds pretty standard for a six-year-old right?
We soon discovered the extent of the bullying and caught bullies on camera in full bully mode picking on other kids in the school and we tried to bring this to the school’s attention. Would you believe me if I told you that their reaction to the footage was, “filming other kids on school property is strictly forbidden.” Believe it!
Somewhere around this time, Hamza started fighting back his bullies and we started getting calls that he was kicking and punching kids- and teachers. His version: kids were hitting and pinching him and teasing him and so he took care of it by hitting back. Their version: violence is never the answer to having your feelings hurt and he should have told a teacher. His version: The teachers never believed him or listen to him when he tells. We were recommended to a child psychologist around this time too.
Hamza also started running out of his classroom when feeling stressed and would climb the playground tree and choose to stay in it and calm down when times got really bad for him. I was later told by the play therapist and pediatrician that this was a sign of just how unsafe he felt at school and this was his way of making himself feel safe again. He would literally refuse to come down until either we were called to get him or I was able to talk him down via a phone call!
It was when Hamza started coming home with stories of being restrained, locked up, stood on and choked by teachers and the principle, that alarm bells really started to raise for us. Having said that, because he is also known to tell a tall tale ever now and then when the school minimized the stories, we doubted him.
It took two incidents where his version and the school’s version added up, for us to really sit up and pay attention. Both cases saw him get physical with either a kid or teacher which resulted in him being ‘restrained’ and carried by his ankles and wrists off the tennis court, or being pinned down by his ankles and wrists in the office (‘for his own safety’ of course.)
This was the last straw, after seeing a child psychologist who corroborated that there was nothing ‘wrong ‘ with Hamza mentally but that emotionally he was fucked from the ordeal at school and that basically, these assholes had done nothing to make him feel safe and supported while at school.
After being told a number of times that our son was too resource heavy for the school and that he could not return until progress was made in therapy, we yanked both our kids out that place two weeks before the end of the second school term.
Hamza was emotional, angry and insecure. The next two weeks involved a lot of tears and tantrums and in spending more time with him than usual, I saw the behavior the school spoke of, but I also saw a broken boy, insecure and apologetic over the smallest mistake. My once confident child, who would roll the car windows down to chat up the lady selling the Big Issue, was now hiding between my legs and shying away from meeting a new person. It was soul shattering to see and to accept my role and responsibility in creating this mess.
The report that was sent to us at the end of the term told of a violent, aggressive child who posed a danger to himself and others and was not able to cope in a school environment. The report was so bad, even our privately hired homeschool teacher thought twice before accepting the job. There is no way that we would be able to get Hamza into any school at such short notice and with that report!
Knowing that quitting work was not an option, we began the journey of hiring a full time, private teacher. We interviewed a number of candidates and finally settled on Anieka, a young, mature Afrikaans remedial teacher from Durban.
It has only been two weeks with this woman in our lives and already I can see a massive shift in Hamza’s confidence and work ethic. My ‘violent, insecure and lazy boy ‘ has already started loving learning and sharing again and the future is starting to look bright already.
While Hamza is behind in reading and writing at the moment, the one-on-one attention and love are resulting in faster progress than the six months spent in school. Hana, who became collateral damage in the process, is thriving with a higher level of work. She is happily grasping her brothers grade one work, despite only being four years old- Anieka thinks she is ready for grade one in a massive way- something the school never picked up on or mentioned.
And herein lies the biggest failure of our schools! The slower, sensitive learners are left behind and the gifted, bright ones are held back.
It is still early days and we have a long road and many challenges ahead I am sure! Hiring a teacher may not be the most conventional approach to homeschooling, but our little home school setup is working well for our little family unit so far and its good to see the kids smiling again.
P.S expect a lot more homeschooling posts to follow 🙂