Musings of a high school mom

If you’re a friend or a regular reader you’ll know that this year Ewan started high school. I posted a long while back about choosing a high school. In the end, we chose the all boys traditional public school. 

It’s only been a few weeks since the new school year started. We’ve dealt with so many changes in such a short time! Looking back, I can’t really believe that it’s only been just over a month. It feels like we’ve been doing this forever. 

The first few days were rough. The older grades asserted their seniority, which was a little intimidating for the total newbie. Fortunately there wasn’t any of the horror initiation I’ve heard about! For the most part, I think it was good natured and just the older boys showing the formies where they fit in this new society that they’re part of. Ewan took it well, with his usual good humour. All the same, he was relieved when it was over and they were left alone to blend in with the rest of the school. 

The bigger shock to his system was having to deal with making new friends in a completely strange environment. He was a well liked kid in his nurturing primary school and he’d made some very close friends in the time he was there. Finding new friends in a new school, where everyone was a stranger took some time. I underestimated how hard it could be for a 13 year old. You know how little kids who’ve just met will just wander off to the jungle gyms and an hour later be best friends for life? Well I had to remember that it gets more complicated when you’re older. He had to find his crowd. Boys that he could relate to.

For the first week or two, he was pretty sure that no such kids existed in his new school. I’m so grateful that his old primary school friends have been around on weekends for hangouts and a sleepover or two during this time. Thankfully, he’s now found a gang! He’s  found his people and he’s starting to feel comfortable in his space.

All in all, it’s been a positive experience. 

I am still finding the communication lines a bit confusing but I guess I’m getting used to where to find out what and I’m also learning to rely on Ewan for info.

It’s strange not to really know who teaches him what. We’re yet to formally meet any teachers. We’ve only listened to them talk at a the parent’s info evening. 

I appreciate the strong sense of respect and discipline the school is instilling in the boys. 

And brotherhood… it’s only been weeks and I sense that Ewan already feels a strong bond to the school. 

They each have a matric mentor and it’s awesome to see the older boys taking the younger ones under their wings. Yesterday, the formies had a braai with their matric mentors and I was really happy to see them actually interacting with the older boys when I arrived to fetch him. And goodbyes were said with fist pumps, elbow bumps and everything, lol!

I love the regular visits and news they get from old boys who have done well. From Rhodes scholars to Olympian medal winners & provincial sportsmen. I really do think it inspires the boys to be all they can be. 

I enjoy our car trips to school. We’ve solved the world’s problems, had silly laughs and driven in companionable silence (and I’ve given a few lectures – I am the mom of course!)

I’ve learned that buttons don’t get sewn on. They pierce holes in their blazers and anchor the buttons in place! Ingenious, I tell you. 

So far, so good, but bring on the holidays!

And for our next trick, we need to figure out where to send Claire!!!

P.S. This post was read and vetted by the subject before I hit “publish”. 

Back to School Sanity-Savers

Geez – this back to school stuff is expensive! This year particularly , what with the teen entering high school and needing an entire new uniform!

By uniform, I’m not talking white shirt, grey pants and black shoes. I haven’t even done that shopping yet! I’m talking blazer, a straw basher (umm – what century are we in again?), PT kit, house shirt, rugby shirt, rugby boots, tracksuit… the list is literally endless!

And then there has to be new bags and pencil cases for both. We teased the tween and told her that she could just inherit her brother’s bag if hers wasn’t good enough. He could have a new one, because new school and all *evil laugh*!

Seriously though, after a year of hard use, they both need new bags! And then there was the task of convincing the tween that the pretty sparkly satchels that you can buy at “Typo” and “Claire’s” are not appropriate for lugging around a pile of exercise books, text books, stationery and three week old sandwiches and banana skins. I wish I were kidding about the bananas but the tween’s main complaint was that her backpack smelled of banana. I’m sure that it is at this juncture that my mom or aunt will remind me of the time they discovered a couple of moulding peanut butter sarmies in my school bag when I was about 9 – all neatly flattened in-between those cardboardy compartments that all uncool school bags had.

Anyways – back to the shopping. I’ve been doing this back to school thing for a fair number of years and these are some of my top tips for the back to school drill:

  • We have a super awesome little stationery shop in our local mall that make up stationery packs according to individual requirements. I simply emailed them the lists that I got from the school for each grade and within the day I had a quote and by the end of the week the packs were ready and waiting to be picked up and paid for. And price wise, they’re really competitive. I did a spot check on one or two of the more expensive items like the scientific calculator and they were really well priced. So, so, so much easier than fighting your way through Makro or Game or CNA and hunting on hands and knees for a specific 745 page right margined, half quad and half feint A25 work book.
  • We always buy new stationery as per the lists provided each year so that the kids start the year off with some excitement about all things shiny and new. I speak from experience as I can’t get motivated to get going with my own studying with yucky old stationery. I go through all the old stuff and save what is usable for the home work desks. I sharpen all the pencils and test the khokis and highlighters and throw out the broken and almost finished. Spare scissors, glues, sharpeners, compasses and protractors are kept aside for those last minute “mom, I’ve lost …” requests, five seconds before we are due to leave the house.
  • And sticking with glue (see what I did there?) I also buy a couple of extras because they ALWAYS run out! I also always buy a pad of coloured poster paper to keep aside – for those last ditch attempts at projects.
  • If you don’t fancy keeping last year’s used pens and pencils etc – spare a thought for the needy kids who don’t get awesome new goodies!
  • I strip the clean paper out of last year’s partially used exercise books and keep it in one of those clear plastic storage boxes from Westpack. Scrap paper is always useful for random things shopping lists and visits from littlies wanting to draw. That’s about as far as my recycling of school stuff goes. I tried once to melt down a gazillion wax crayons into one big one – but that was a waste of time and energy. Thank goodness my kidlets are past the wax crayon stage!
  • If you do have to buy paper text books and particularly if you plan to pass them down to younger siblings – take your time to cover them with sticky backed plastic. It makes such a difference to keeping them in a decent state so that the younger sibling doesn’t cringe with embarrassment when their turn comes to using the books.
  • And on the note of hand-me-down books, I’ve now dedicated a bookshelf for text books and set works and dictionaries etc. Saves us having to fork out extra ronts when sibling 2 needs a book that you’re 110% certain sibling 1 had and can’t find anywhere until months after it is needed.
  • Get the kids involved in getting all this back-to-school stuff ready. Seriously. If they can write their names legibly, they can help with the labelling! I’d also like to take this moment to thank the stationery gods for slip on plastic book covers!
  • takealot.com has an awesome selection of school bags at good prices. Let’s just hope ours arrive in time for school next week. I left the ordering till today, but online shopping really is the bomb.com

What are your tips and tricks for back to school? And tell me I’m not alone with the mouldy sandwiches, please!

Love,

Hil

P.S. My little local stationery shop has branches in Randpark Ridge and Morning Glen. Find them on http://www.capmor.co.za/ – they didn’t ask for a punt – I just think they’re super cool!

Birds, Bees and the Brock case 

For the first few years of parenting, I imagined the day with a measure of dread. They’re so sweet and innocent and how is it possible that they will ever be big enough to have to know stuff about body hair, puberty, periods, contraception. I didn’t even consider factoring rape into the discussion. And being a young, naïve parent I somehow imagined that the talk was a one-time event that would occur at some point in the distant future. Like getting a driver’s licence… but with more discomfort. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the greatest comparison – the process of actually getting my driver’s licence came with a huge deal of discomfort.

As I became a slightly more experienced (aka opinionated) parent, my mental preparation evolved. As soon as they asked the first question, I would respond with an age appropriate answer, love, clarity and zero embarrassment. I would be matter-of-fact about all matters relating to body. I would emphasise the normalcy of it all so as to avoid them growing up with all sorts of hang ups. I would emphasise love and maturity and informed choice. My kids would feel comfortable to ask me anything, confident in the knowledge that I would answer them with love and openness.

 The reality is slightly different though. This was never to be a once off conversation. And it was never the clichéd “where do babies come from?” that I had been mentally preparing for. This was never clearer than on the day that my almost 10 year old son overheard a news report about a 10 year old girl that was pregnant and asked how it was possible. Instead of being sweet and innocent, I found myself explaining the horrors of molestation, rape and the basic mechanics of sex in one go, which with the benefit of hindsight was probably too much, too soon and hardly age appropriate. But my thought process at the time was that if a girl, barely older than him was capable of conceiving, then maybe he needed to know it all. And when you’re caught off guard, it’s not easy to know where to start and stop. Another thing… as a trained doula with a bit of knowledge about the processes of pregnancy and birth, I tend to get a bit technical about these sort of things. I worry that I have bombarded my poor children with too much of the actual biology, not to mention my own biases.

Despite my best intentions about open lines of communication and my kids being free and comfortable to talk to me about anything… they are often just not that keen to talk. My boy child especially. We’ve had a couple of good chats, but they’re never easy. I think that no matter how open minded and liberal a parent may be, it’s just not that easy to talk comfortably about sex. It’s been slightly easier with my daughter. She loves a good chat and seems fairly comfortable discussing things with me. The most important thing that I have realised with having two older kids is that the talks have to happen and happen again. And again. Their filters are so different at each age and what they have taken in from our early talks is very different from what they take in now as a tween and a teen. And the conversations mostly need to be started by me. I need to check in regularly and find out where they’re at, and hopefully they will follow with what they want to know.

I don’t think that kids should be left to get Sex Ed from school but I’m extremely grateful that my children’s school has an annual workshop for the senior primary students where they’re given age appropriate talks about all sorts of tricky subjects. These talks happened last week and have opened the doors to conversations between the kids and I. We’ve talked about a whole host of things in the last few days. In light of the horrible Brock case that has been all over the news this week, I realised that the talks also need to emphasise my daughter’s right to say NO, no matter the person or situation. And for my son… that No is always No, and saying nothing doesn’t mean consent.

It’s a learning curve, as is everything with parenting. What has your approach to “the birds and bees” been? And how do you feel about talking about the really uncomfortable stuff like rape? 



 

Choosing a highschool…or letting a highschool choose us!

I thought I’d don the Mom-Blog hat for once instead of the Running-Blog sneakers and post about the big parenting thing happening for us right now…

Ewan is less than a year away from high school and I can hardly believe we are at this point in our lives! When we were choosing primary schools all those years ago, high school seemed like a very distant concern and yet I remember him starting pre-primary in 2008 like it was yesterday. We chose a lovely private school, close to home that had a Cambridge curriculum and a warm, family like feeling when we visited. 10406834_10153853475396565_1838176642647242060_n

Its been a bit of a different thing though choosing a high school. Now the end of his school career is vaguely in sight and we need to seriously consider the future. How do we end his school career in the best way to equip him for university? For adulthood?

At the moment, our options seem to be as either a highly rated private co-ed high school, in our neighbourhood or top public JHB boys school, close to our offices.

If you’re being nice, call me analytical, but honestly I am a great over-thinker. I’ve been talking to Ewan, other parents and teachers, made pro and con lists in my head and on paper, visualised possible outcomes and then thought some more. And seem to I change my mind on a daily basis about what the right choice might be.

Things sure are different to when I was a kid, I just went to the school I was zoned for. And when that didn’t seem to be the best option, my folks told the school that I wanted to attend that we were planning to move into their area, and off I went.

Nowadays, if you want to go the local public school that you’re zoned for, you stand in insane queues, overnight, to apply to get your child in. If you want to go the private school route, or get into a top public school, you get called for interviews, write exams, present CV’s. You wait for acknowledgement and juggle your options.

And then you do it all again when your next child has to make the big leap from primary school to high.

What was your criteria for choosing schools?

30/31 – Letting go bit by bit

My kids are pretty close, both in age and relationship. Oh, they do fight – they bicker and they bash each other, but most of the time, they are great playmates for each other. In fact, even though they each have their own bedroom, they choose to share a room! My boy is an excellent big brother and my girl is an adoring thoughtful little sister (most of the time)

Today, a quiet Saturday afternoon – father and son watching football and daughter playing with her cousin – I had a call from my son’s friend’s mom – would he be keen to come round for a last minute sleepover? My child was virtually out the door before I had even put the phone down! 

I was left with a devastated little girl crying her heart out in her bedroom. Heartbreaking, but what is a mom to do? They are both growing up, but he will always be the one to experience things first and it wouldn’t be fair to stop him from doing things just because she can’t do them yet. Many tears, and a promise of a McDonalds McFlurry later, she calmed down and resumed her game with her cousin.

And I was a little anxious. We have known this family via school for the last 5 years, my son has been allowed to sleep out before, I am a fairly relaxed mom, I know he is in good hands, he is a confident easygoing child…   but it is still a little nerve wracking to drop him off for a night out at a buddy.

Sometimes it’s hard to be 6. And sometimes it’s hard to be 34. Life changes, bit by bit and we have to deal with it. 

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