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The gift of tongues

15 Jun

She’s in, she’s in!!! Léa has been officially accepted into Sweet Valley!!

We were called for an interview a week in advance. You would think that it is ample time to prepare yourself, psychologically, mentally emotionally. You would think that I would at least prepare the answer to the question: why do you want your child to get into Sweet Valley. I knew we would be asked this question… I was not quite ready for the question, neither for the rest of the interview.

As we arrived on the Friday morning, with rain pouring, we were a bit uncertain as to what to expect. When the principal arrived with a remedial teacher who took Lea on her own, we went to the principal’s office,  a bit  surprised. Poor Léa who was all excited to be with her mum and dad in the middle of the day, missing school…her face fell! But she coped well, not clinging, not crying, not too bad a start!

In the beautiful office, the principal asked his one – and only – question. After explaining to us that most people want their child into this school because of reputation, he asks us what is OUR reason for wanting Lea to go to Sweet Valley. And I was sitting there, knowing that my reasons are the exact same reasons as everyone else. What on earth can I say that will be original… and my brain doesn’t work well ‘on the spot’… So I mumbled some things about reputation (duuuhhh), lovely community feel…pffffffff! Phil did better than me and managed to mention more precise examples. But nothing earth-shattering really!

Then came a 10 minute long description of what Sweet Valley is, where it comes from, where it’s going, its achievements… all very interesting but rather confusing since I’m the one wanting to get my child into the school. It felt a bit like a tease: ‘look at our beautiful school – but sorry you can’t come in’… The van Blerks morale was not very high at that point!

Then it was Lea’s turn to come inside and be asked a few questions from the principal. Here stood Lea, squirming, waggling, jiggling on her feet, wriggling like a worm with tapeworm issues. When asked her name and surname, she barely managed to murmur Léa, with me mouthing the words very discreetly. When asked about her birthday date, she uttered a triumphant  ‘I don’t know’. Finally, she answered right to the colour, shape and maths questions. Some even to my surprise! But THEN, when she was allowed to sit down next to her dad, they exchanged a few words in Afrikaans, to the principal’s surprise. Hence followed a conversation about our story and the different languages used in our house. It seems that I have told this story like a million time, but never with such a motivation! I can never say for sure but I am convinced that this was the turning point of THE interview. That same afternoon, the kind secretary phoned me to say that they had a spot for Léa!!!

I know in my heart that it is an immense privilege for our children to be able to speak more than one language, in spite of the few set backs that they had to go through. Yes, they did have more frustrations than others to express themselves at an age where everything is already frustrating (learning to walk, to wee in the right spot, to eat without fidgeting, to share toys, to take turns…it is hard to be a toddler!) But that day was probably one of the first time that I could touch with my fingers the benefit of that extra effort. We are so very grateful, we’re grateful that the Lord didn’t close that door for us and we’re grateful that He provided a good school for Léa! Now the hard work will start in 2010, when she’ll actually go to school!

To homeschool or not to homeschool – not a controversial post!

29 May

For the umptieth time, we changed our mind on the schooling of our kids.

Phil and I have never been big fans of ’10 steps to…’ or following some kind of recipe that will bring you to ….. (fill in the blank). I think ,particularly in America, you can probably find a book on any topics that will give you the 5 easy and simple steps to achieve anything: from losing weight to making money, becoming a spy (I would buy this one!!) or taming a lion. In those bookstores, undeniably you will find anything related to parenting. And schooling is a huge part of your parenting role, whether you homeschool or not. I’m not writing a post on the pros and cons of different kinds of schooling. In fact, I can only talk about my own very personal experience and my own very personal circumstances that lead Phil and I to our final decision, for this year and the next at least!

For quite a few months now, we have been leaning towards homeschooling our kids, primarily because of two reasons: the first one is related to the language dilemma (in which language should our children be learning) and the second one is Killian related. If he is on the spectrum, will it not be better for him to be schooled at home?

On my side, the decision has been purely practical. Yes I can see some of the benefits from homeschooling (your teaching is exactly designed for your child, with his strength and weaknesses) but it has never been a dream of mine to homeschool my children. I was talking to a new friend of mine a few weeks ago and she happened to homeschool her boy. She was saying how it is something she has always wanted to do, since he was born. He is on the ADD spectrum, so she imported a special program from overseas and school days are quite tough but it is something she passionately wants to do. That’s not me!

A month or so ago, I had a feed back session with Killian’s OT (Occupational Therapy). Killian has been going to her for 6 months and she’s been helping him with different tasks, particularly expanding his fine motor skills, finding confidence in his immobile movements etc…Talking with her made me realise something that I think I knew deep down. Although I am petrified at the idea of schooling Killian, my real fear is probably how to handle him in a teaching environment, how to get through to him so that he will learn without our relationship suffering from it. At best of times, I have to work hard at understanding that little boy and not getting annoyed at the things he does; like climbing on anything and everything, moving and touching everything – particularly my stuff, more often than not breaking, throwing or losing it in the process….and not learning from his mistakes. I know that most of these things are happening because he is on the spectrum, but I still get upset! On a day to day basis, I don’t want to be the mum that is permanently angry with him, and with God’s help, I know that I can be loving and patient and forgiving and full of compassion. Can I emphasize with God’s help? But schooling him? Teaching him how to read and write? I’m sure I can, again with God’s help, but at what cost? I’m scared that it would damage our relationship and this is NOT worth it. I need to be a godly example for my children, I need to show them the work that Christ did and is doing in my life. I need to be an example for them so that when they are grown-up, they can look at me and say  ‘my mum is a great example of the love of Christ’., and not ‘that old grumpy woman, boy what a drag she was!’ Again I know that being godly – or at least striving for godliness – is not limited to my circumstances. I would have to be godly if I homeschool, and I would have to be godly if I don’t. My circumstances do not dictate the level of my godliness. But since God has not said The wise shall homeschool lest he falls, I feel that it’s not necessary to add more pressure on Killian and myself.

So Killian won’t be homeschool. And neither will Léa, and neither will Matt – for now!

Since then, God miraculously opened a spot for the pre-primary school where I would have sent Léa at the beginning of the year. If you have a child at school, you would know how this process can be stressful. Is this school right for my child? Will he/she get in?… To have that opening at Constantiaberg was of great comfort. God definitely opened that door for us and we’re so thankful that He did. So Léa started at her little school where she is adjusting quite well. In spite of her painful shyness, she’s even made one or two friends there. I can’t say that she leaps for joy when I take her to school but she is also not traumatised when I fetch her from school.

That is Léa on her first day!


Ironically, since our decision, I’ve bumped into two mums that I barely know and that happen to have two boys also in the ADHD realm. They both took their kids out of school and started to homeschool them for their sake… It’s a good thing that I left my superstitious nature at the door of my Christian life – the outside side of the door! – and that I’m not trying to read signs. Only God knows: in a few years, we might come back to homeschool if the scholar system is definitely not working for Killian, or we might not. I trust that God would keep us flexible in our thinking (especially mine!) and that we would know with certainty that He will show us the wise path for our family.

(More and hopefully last) First times

18 Feb

One of the last new thing we added on this year  – which was like a come back after a few years – was our mum’s group Busy Kids. We used to have a group of us, mums-at-home with kids-at-home and we ran a program with them, from play-dough to painting, via craft and music. It was around 15 kids and 5 or 6 mums. it was a lot of fun for the kids, a bit of hard work for the mum and a bunch of reaped benefits for all of us!
Last year, Hayley, Taryn and Kerry started again the Busy Kids group with their kiddies. Mine were half in school, half at home and it was a year of big change for us between my new job starting 2 days a week, Killian’s special needs becoming more apparent and a bum between two chairs: school or homeschool…

This year, it seems that we have made decisions that fit our whole family quite well. Yes, I’m homeschooling Léa. To get that french curriculum was quite a mission but after many trial and error, we managed to receive all the books. And it’s a com-ple-te curriculum: reading, writing, maths, science, science of the living, science of nature, music and art. All I need now is a week of 10 days, because 7 is just not enough!! The two boys are also home with me. Killian still goes to his special group and I finally start to see real change – which could be just maturity. As for Matt, since his new passion of puzzles (no joking, he build puzzles from morning til afternoon and we are not allowed to break the done puzzles!!!), doing school with Léa is very easy!

Now I’m coming back to the real topic of this post, and that was Busy Kids. We’ve started a few weeks ago already. The format is much simpler than the previous BK. One mum will read the book of the month/week (we work by themes – going along with Little Footprints, which is a south African curriculum. Taryn and Kerry are following it), and a craft activity based on that theme will follow, mainly by the big kids (Kiera, Léa, Katie, Jesse, Killian and Ben) while the younger ones (Matt, Sam, Becky and Jemma) play in the play room.

They have then a lot of free time to get to know each other  and be silly together, and that’s the main point too!! 🙂

Mattéas and Kiera are missing here…Not sure where they were! This is the beginning time of BK: songs, rules to respect, and the theme of the week introduced.


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