Friday, 4 September 2015

Today my son, the Competitive One, declined Medicine.

Today my son, the Competitive One, declined Medicine and my heart is bursting with pride!

Everyone thinks it's the career to aim for. That it is the ultimate dream of any homeschooling parent to once and for all quieten the critics, the final proof that what we did, and how we did it, all those years was not just enough, it was more than enough.

It is not.

He was tempted by winning, by being the best. And he was tempted by others' disappointments and regrets, by titles, by job opportunities and by knowing that it would make those close to him, those that are sacrificing to get him through university, proud.

He was tempted, but he did not fall.

He stayed true to himself and to his dream. He pressed into God for reassurance, he listened carefully and he made the decision once and for all. And that makes me proud. It makes me proud that he knew Who to ask and how to listen for that final word. That he took that mighty leap of faith to trust God and not the fears of men.That he put winning aside and instead chose obedience. And peace.

You see, the ultimate dream of any parent, homeschooling or not, is to have a child that is happy and fulfilled, a child that is living his unique purpose.

And he is.

You hear it when he talks Anatomy and Movement. When he shares his results. He eats, breathes and lives Physiotherapy. And yes, there aren't that many successful, well known guys in Physio but maybe you should take note of this one. He's going places!

Left Front: The Competitive One

Friday, 17 January 2014

Those wonderful creatures we call Teens

A few years back someone asked for my thoughts on teens, she wrote:

"Everywhere I go I find these wonderful creatures lethargic, depressed, listless and interested only in playing computer games and watching TV and DVDs. They seem to have lost all their confidence and other wonderful attributes. What is going on?"

My take: Some of this could be physical & hormonal, however some of this could also be due to a feeling of hopelessness (they don’t feel in control of their lives and they have no clear vision). And then some of it could be because their senses have been numbed by all the screen time.

The solutions?

Discuss screen time and the uses thereof. We too don’t have a TV but we do watch movies and have ADSL (albeit slow!). We have embraced technology as a learning tool. The boys do Game but they realize that it can become addictive and a time waster. In fact they’re writing Cambridge exams right now and have chosen to pack up their PC’s for a while to eliminate temptation – all by their own doing.

Awaken their senses. Make them aware of- and delight in simple pleasures. Take time to “smell the roses”… together.

Help them work out a schedule but then back-off. Don’t take control but also don’t interfere with the consequences of not following through. Allow them to sleep late but if they get behind on work they need to make a plan. Don’t extend deadlines, don’t cancel tutoring, don’t reschedule an exam. They need to deal with the real-life consequences even if it means going to ‘Varsity a year later than planned.

Encourage them to exercise & eat healthily. My one son has become a huge gym and parkour enthusiast, he’s become the family’s personal trainer. He has educated himself via the internet and has purchased all his equipment by himself through money he’s made doing various jobs.

And that is another key to make them feel less out of control: Let them work, be supportive and help find job opportunities so that they can earn an income and realize a few short term goals and live a few dreams. We live in the country with limited opportunities it would seem, but our boys have become resourceful. They are instructors at an outdoor adventure centre, they do the lights and sound for our local theatre, they house-sit, they teach Phys Ed & Art at a rural school and they save every cent they make. Our creative self-taught musician (some of it learnt via the internet) has bought most of his music instruments & equipment by himself in this way. Our PC enthusiast was not satisfied with his ancient PC and upgraded all by himself. He has since purchased and downloaded programmes to write music and edit photos & videos with. He entered a photographic competition and won his category and also recently entered a Young Movie Maker Competition. Lately he’s been writing music electronically. The Gymer is also an enthusiastic fisherman. He bought his own new bass rod and is making lures from recycled material that actually work! He’s now looking into marketing them for use and decoration in box frames. His dad does not enjoy fishing but he found himself a mentor in a dear 60yo family- and homeschool friend. Bottom line: They have all discovered their passions (many via the internet) and we fuel it as best we can by listening, watching and giving our input. We cannot finance most of it but we don’t squelch their enthusiasm either, instead we try to find more ideas from our side (in the same vein) that might further encourage their creativity. We don’t complain when we have to drive some way to support someone, drop someone off or buy something for the specific hobby. In this way we convey that it is, they are, important to us. This gives them vision and gets them motivated to get up and enthusiastically get on with life. I am totally hands-off as far as our sons’ schooling goes. They have tutors for a few subjects but otherwise they are very much on their own & self-driven.

Finally, it’s important to set the right example and to live what you speak. Don’t spend all your waking time on the PC if they are not allowed to. Be entrepreneural, take risks. Share your passions, your dreams and make them happen. Learn new things, find mentors and most importantly openly delight in simple pleasures!

Written & published in response to an enquiry on an Open Homeschooling Forum in 2011

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Why Montessori?

I had a 70's and 80's public school experience, I've been exposed to the 21st century public school experience and we've had a 15 year homeschooling experience. We dabbled in literature based unit studies, we played with a variety of manipulatives, we made learning a lifestyle and we discovered the liberty of unschooling and here I am fiddling with Montessori. Why?

Well, to me it just stretches my knowledge and understanding of how (and why) we learn, practically, a little bit further. My unschooling frame of reference helps clarify many key Montessori principles. I know many people don't quite get it like I do because they have different experiences, a different point of departure.

Let me make it clear: Montessori is not about the didactic materials. Nor is it all about Cosmic Education.

Montessori is a way to unschool practically in a classroom environment and that's why I love it! Montessori has managed to get the world's attention, it's stamp of approval on unschooling, on natural child-led learning, on a successful method that is scientifically based and not just tradition-based.

Yes, I miss a stronger focus on literature and on imaginary play. And yes, Montessorians can get all "better-than-thou" elitist. They can withdraw from the debate on education, become separatists.  And they can get hung up on their didcatic materials and exactly how to present them and exactly how to use them. And they can lose sight of the fact that they should be the salt, the light in the communities that they live in. And they can forget the one that it is all about: the child. They can forget to  f o l l o w  the child. And all this would sadden Dr Montessori.

But I do love the respectful classroom management style and the ordered, beautiful environment. I love the fact that the prepared environment offers the children a variety of choices, that the teacher is simply a facilitator. I love the emphasis on the concrete-, the hands-on activities especially the sensorial and maths materials, and on nature.  I love that real life is very much a part of real learning.

And I love Maria Montessori's heart for the child.

Friday, 15 November 2013

When we become the Curriculum

He messaged me. I could tell he was subtly angry, concerned. My first reaction was defensive.

As I read, I recognized a fierce protectiveness. It reminded me of the feelings that had been stirred in me during a conversation I had had with my dad the night before. It reminded me of the capacity of a parent's heart to protect.

"If she is misbehaving" he wrote, "it is probably because you are rejecting her, excluding her from the pack" and a little further "It matters to her if her pack is disappointed in her". I marvelled at his insight; his wisdom. Then I smiled inwardly, I recognized me. I recognized the way he analysed the situation, the way he tried to get into her head, the way he took her side, the way he seeked the good in the bad, the way he protected her, loved her regardless, that brindle ball of energy he chose for his twelfth birthday but now had to leave behind. "She's more like a person" he once confided and it reminded me of the words that had been playing through my mind all week: "a person is a person no matter how small - respect the child".
He was imitating me and to be honest, it made me a little more than proud. A little bit of me had rubbed off, had replicated itself and I couldn't stop smiling. For years I have been saying that I'm raising them, training them, for life, not an exam. Raising them to be someone's husband, dad, employer. And here for the first time I caught a glimpse of what I had achieved. I wondered, I delighted, in the potential parent that had fleetingly revealed himself in this tender eighteen year old heart.
"I love your heart MY boy," I messaged back, "don't worry she's okay, I'm looking out for her".

Thursday, 9 May 2013

25 Things to teach and live

1.Teach them that GOOD CHARACTER is a quality of an educated person, not academic knowledge.

2. SET BOUNDARIES but give them freedom within.

3. Teach them that all choices have CONSEQUENCES.

4. Teach them to RESPECT OTHERS by respecting them as unique individuals.

5. SPEAK POSITIVELY & highlight their strengths.

6. INVOLVE THEM in your everyday life and never stop talking & explaining as you go about it!

7. Give them CHORES, it develops responsibility & a sense of worth as a team player.

8. LIMIT “screen time” (TV’s, PC’s & iPads).

9. READ ALOUD to them from birth & don’t ever stop (even once they are reading by themselves)!

10. Introduce them to the great classics & develop a LOVE FOR GOOD BOOKS.

11. Make outings to Book Shops a festive family affair!

12. Give them lots of FREE TIME to play (cut back on extra murals)!!!

13. Encourage IMAGINATIVE GAMES by providing “dress-up” stuff.

14. Encourage CONSTRUCTION GAMES by providing them with their own tools, nails, wood, rope and wheels (from second hand shops!)

15. Take time to PLAY WITH THEM. Introduce lots of puzzles and board games to build basic maths skills & family-togetherness.

16. BAKE & COOK TOGETHER, it helps with fine motor development, maths skills and an appreciation for good food.

17. Go on DISCOVERY EXPEDITIONS (nature walks) together. Bring home your finds and research them!

18. Make the most of your HOLIDAYS – they can be wonderful educational fieldtrips!

19. Seize the TEACHABLE MOMENTS! Live life deliberately instead of just letting it happen!

20. ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY and a questioning mind. Never squelch it with a silly answer.

21. Give them a SAFE PLACE to experiment & learn from their mistakes. Encourage them to take risks!

22. Really LISTEN to them and help them follow their interests & develop their passions.

23. Help them develop A SENSE OF PURPOSE, it leads to inward driven learners.

24. Support & encourage their ENTREPRENEURAL ideas.

25. EAT TOGETHER and share your days' highs & lows.

LIVE and be present in every moment!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Friday, 3 May 2013

An Open Letter on Raising Boys

Hi (Your Name?)

Interesting ideas some people have <LOL>! But good for you for listening and giving it some thought…

You write:
 "Now, about Boys. We had a chat with other parents who HS and their eldest is a boy. They don't think it would be good for him to be HS past, say, 12/13 years since boys will need to be more competative when they go into the world as men."
Mmmm, I don’t know about being “competitive” but I suppose what they are saying is “Men need to have a backbone when they go into the world as men”. I can agree with that. That would be one of your long term goals that in our family is slapped under “We are raising somebody’s husband, father and employer/employee and for that he needs among others…some backbone!”

Firstly, I don’t agree that school is a healthy place to grow back-bone (and definitely not during the very vulnerable teen years). Teens are trying to come to terms with all the changes that are taking place in their bodies (some of it they like; some of it they don’t) – they need to hear that they are “okay” unfortunately this is not the message sent to the vast majority by their peers. And teens are trying to find meaning & direction - their purpose. I love my teens; I love their individuality and I purposely reinforce it. “You want long hair? Great! How about a “bob”? You want to wear your purity ring on your thumb? Cool, we’ll buy a bigger one! Purple skinny jeans? Okay, what about these purple laces too?” “You don’t want to shave? Okay, that mustache is actually kinda sexy!” I think it’s important for them not to feel weird or different in a negative way, it must be a “weird” that they feel confident & cool about as this also grows backbone (confidence).

Secondly, only ONE of my three boys is “competitive” (in a good sense) and I believe it has bit to do with his Concrete Sequential/Concrete Random learning style and Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence. Competition doesn’t motivate all people nor does it grow backbone in all. A quiet, compliant boy can have backbone too. He can gently but firmly stand his ground if he has been taught how to (my father-in-law has a saying: “There is nothing as strong as gentleness”).

Thirdly, there is very little POSITIVE peer pressure among same-aged-school-going teen peers in public school as they are all immature and seeking. Generally, exposing a young homeschooled teen to this is a sure fire way to stunt backbone growth and encourage negative “herd mentality” (depending on the child obviously). This particular little boy does not sound like the compliant round peg, he’ll probably be in trouble on a daily basis building a group of friends with similar “risk taking tendencies”! The “risks” will probably grow as he does…

So how could homeschoolers grow backbone practically?

Boys need an involved father and other godly men to come along side them and mentor them. They need men that they can look up to and imitate. They need to be seen as grown-ups-in-training (get them to work with their mentors). John Eldredge in “Wild At Heart” says: “You’re only a man when another man has said that you’re a man” – they need that affirmation. They need to be given freedom & choices (with the relevant consequences). They need to be heard. They need their questions answered – we often discuss “life” as opportunities present themselves. If they know who they are, what they believe and why they believe it - they will have backbone.

You continue:
"And since their son is quite strong-willed and competitive with Mom (he's 4) they think it would not be a good match for him to spend most of the time with Mom when he's in his teens. So they plan to send him to a boy's school or something like that when he gets older."
This mom needs to get a handle on this little man now. She needs to get an understanding of the strong willed child and how you can get them to be compliant by giving them choices and making them ”feel” in control.
“You can’t make me (but I can be persuaded)” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias is a good read!
"When I mentioned this to a Mom who is researching HS as an option for their daughter, her response was, 'but girls will also need to go out and compete in the working world, so shouldn't they also be exposed to peer-pressure?' etc."
Peer-pressure is not the way to go about building character, habits & skills that any person needs to function as an effective, happy person. Defining the truths, habits & character traits that you want to develop is the first step. The next is to use everyday situations & real life to start building them or making them real & relevant! In other words “purposeful parenting” – parenting with a goal in mind.


We didn’t encourage our toddlers to “smack the naughty table” if they bumped into it and fell – we didn’t want to teach “passing-the-blame” but that we are responsible for our actions & the consequences (if we aren’t careful & bump into the table then the consequence is that we fall – no one is to blame but ourselves)

We taught respect for the meaning of the word “no”. We didn’t just say no as a reflex reaction to every request. We would carefully consider when to say no and then stick to it (nagging didn’t change our mind) and we made sure that it was obeyed. We however also respected a little one’s “no” if we gave them the option to do something or not. We didn’t nag and change the child’s mind either (like sharing a toy). The reason: In many date-rape cases it’s reported that the guy says that she did say “no” but he was sure she actually meant “yes”. In our home no is no, not maybe.

We taught our boys that girls are to be protected & helped. At Sunday School the boys and girls used to split up and the boys would play mean pranks on the girls. I encouraged my boys not to be part of it but to protect the girls instead. It became a fun game as they had to stay one step ahead to intercept…

One of my goals has been to teach my boys to “take pleasure in the simple things” like the first leaves in Spring, a beautiful sunset, the smell of freshly roasted coffee because I believe that if they can find contentment in little things they will find contentment wherever they find themselves one day “out there”.

And of course I’ve taught them to cook up a storm – no potential husband should not be able to do this ;-)))

~Adèle (Officially HS’ing Boys since 1999)

Written and published in response to an enquiry on an Open Homeschooling Forum in 2010