Despite being a qualified teacher with a few years of experience, I am completely new to this homeschooling thing. Homeschooling the boys was not something we planned on doing. It was always a “nice” idea at the back of our minds, but never materialised until now. And even so, the opportunity presented itself and we went with it. Having to resign from work, and a few days later going into a nation wide lockdown has been a blessing in disguise, a push towards the life we’ve always wanted for our family.

I remember going back to study after Phoenix was born, and not teaching again until he was two years old and started school. It was a hard transition, every morning I’d have to rush off to work and leaving him crying in the arms of his teacher, and I remember feeling helpless. I remember on the mornings that Farrell would drop him off, I’d wait anxiously at work for a voice note hoping that he would say the mornings are getting better. As a teacher, I knew Phoenix would be okay, and that the tears would stop soon after we left, but as a mom, my heart broke every time. I also remember Phoenix asking me why he has to be at a different school to me – why can’t we be together at the same school. This was not possible as I taught special needs education at that time. 

A year later, Phoenix began Gr RRR at a new school. A transition we felt was necessary for him. This school was further from home (not 5 minutes away as the previous one), and every morning on the drive to school Phoenix would complain of a tummy ache. We would spend the entire 15 minutes singing Thomas and Friends songs (which he was crazy about) just to take his mind off of things. The crying continued, along with begging us to stay – something I couldn’t do because I needed to rush off, brave the traffic and get to work on time (I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this). The first couple of mornings I cried on the way to work, feeling helpless.

I kept wondering about this cycle I’m forcing my 3 year old into. Surely we have another choice – this can’t be right. Phoenix throughly enjoyed his new school and settled in very quickly. Gone were the days of teary, clingy mornings. All seemed well in the world – until his school started expanding and Phoenix figured out that new classrooms meant new teachers… And so the pleading for us to be together at the same school continued – “Mama, If I can’t be a kid at your school, why can’t you be a teacher at my school?” I think Phoenix gave life to this statement, because just before the end of December, I got offered a position at his school. After 7 years in special education, I took a job at a main stream school. And this worked out perfectly as Joshua was able to attend the same school as us at only 4 months old.
After 6 months of maternity leave, I was back on the hamster wheel and my family joined me again… I spent 3 months teaching in the classroom next door to Phoenix, and breastfeeding Joshua during my lunch and tea time. It was early mornings and late nights for Farrell and I everyday. Fast forward to today, and here we are. Hamster wheel turned off, Farrell, and myself starting a new business adventure together along with homeschooling the boys.

I am no homeschool veteran. In fact I don’t know much about the in’s and out’s of it all. I am still trying to figure my way through this. Fortunately I specialised in Foundation Phase Education so I have an idea of the things Phoenix needs to know to be on par with Grade R next year. But I have no idea about what curriculum we will follow and all that other technical stuff yet. 

What I can share with you is what I have learnt so far…

1. Starting homeschool is not easy.
There is so much information out there, it’s trial and error everyday finding what works and what doesn’t. A lot of times I have found that something doesn’t work exactly as planned, and so I have to adjust it to make it work for our family. Phoenix and I both need to learn how to work together in this new role I have to play, and we both need to get use to Phoenix not interacting with other children on a daily basis (especially now during lockdown). Homeschooling is very different to the traditional schooling we are both use to.

2. Have a daily programme.
A programme is great, but it’s not set in stone. When stuck to, it saves a bit of your sanity, however falls flat when you have an uncooperative 4 year old… Being flexible is key. Nowhere does it say that homeschool has to happen Monday to Friday. The biggest benefit to homeschooling your child is that it’s done at their pace. No pressure to meet deadlines for assessments or the pressure of falling behind. If you or your child are having a bad day or something happens, you can easily adjust your programme.

3. Involve your child.
Make then feel responsible for their own learning. Phoenix and I fought everyday for the first week. He moaned about everything I asked him to do, and when I tried to do an activity with him or discuss something with him, I got sarcastic responses and he showed no interest or excitement. This of corse drove me insane – Not only did the effort I put into planning or making activities seem to mean nothing, but in my mind, what kid would hate homeschool!?! Anyway, I bit the bullet and asked Phoenix to tell me what he wants out of this whole homeschool thing. What did he want to learn about? I also had to look at how he learnt. I realised that Phoenix was a lot like me – he wanted to be in charge of his day, and plan it the way he saw fit. He had a list of things he wanted to know, and once I let him, he showed me different ways of doing the very thing I had been begging him to do. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan the activities and make sure Phoenix is on track, I just do it in a way that makes him feel like he is responsible for what he is learning. If he decides he’d like to count cars today, and trains tomorrow so be it! At least he is counting, even if its not using the counters I had set out.

4. Sign up for free trials.
Before buying a curriculum, or teaching programme, do a trial first. There are so many resources and options out there, and often you need to purchase it to gain access to all of the resources. It takes time, and more than one activity to figure out if it’s the right fit for you and your child. Sample as many products as you need to before settling on one. Who knows, you might decide to not follow one set curriculum and rather combine different options (but that is another topic all together).

5. Social media.
Use social media to help you get more information on homeschooling – join groups on Facebook, follow bloggers on Pinterest and Instagram, and subscribe to homeschool websites. YouTube videos are great to watch as well. This helps especially when you don’t have time to search for and read through a whole lot of information. The information just pops up in your newsfeed while scrolling through your social media when you have a gap.

 6. Keep messy play for the end of the day!
I made the mistake of doing messy play with the boys at 09:00… As it’s an activity Joshua and Phoenix can do together, I figured we’d do it before Joshuas nap, and between Phoenix doing a puzzle and a maths activity. Needless to say, both boys were covered from head to toe in sensory foam and had to be bathed before doing anything else…

We are taking things one day at a time, all four of us. It’s trial and error, but we are really blessed to be able to do this together. We are learning so much about each other, and are making the most of our time together. Things can only get better…

– Cath