How did your morning begin this morning? Did you rush to get the kids ready for school, get dressed for work and jump in the car to face the traffic of the school run and then head off to the office? Just like millions of other people across the globe, right?
Let tell you how my morning started. I did wake up early to the clock radio at 6 am, got up and dressed and fetched my domestic worker from the gate of my estate. A 10 minute drive through the bush there and back. Then I went through to the children’s wing of the house and encouraged them to start moving and getting ready for the day, I made us all a cup of tea and then headed out the door for a walk with my 2 dogs, Benji and Tinker.
The dogs were very anxious to walk since we hadn’t been able to do our daily morning walks the previous 2 mornings as it had been raining.
Today was a beaut! The air was so crisp and fresh, the light was incredible, a bit chilly but the smell of the damp earth was gorgeous.
As we rounded a bend in the road we saw a giraffe standing right in the middle of the road. The giraffe took one look at us and ran off into the bush. Tinker, a black labrador, thought that this looked like something she wanted to investigate further and promptly started growling and pulling on her leash. Benji, my little fluffy Maltese poodle cross Jack Russell, was also keen for a little giraffe leg for breakfast. After managing to reign the dogs in, I carried on walking, seeing more giraffe in the bush further ahead. We walked past the spot that just a few days ago there had been an impala killed by a leopard. The carcass had disappeared so I presumed that the leopard or some other scavengers moved it further into the bush.
Why am I telling you this? Because my day did not begin with me arguing with my kids about getting out of bed on a cold winter morning, packing lunch boxes, trying to get out the door with every bit of sports equipment required for whatever sport was being played today. Signing homework books, looking for lost readers.
Driving into the school parking just in time for the drum to sound, yes I did say drum. The school my children used to attend is a bush school, small and nature-based but still run along very traditional lines.
I, however, am not a traditional education type of person, for 2 years I struggled everyday with the system, hoping that I could reconcile myself to the fact that my children were enjoying the bush environment of the school and the amazing surroundings. Maybe the traditional, mainstream curriculum and methodology used at the school wasn’t so bad after all. Having owned and run my own Montessori school in Johannesburg and being so passionate about alternative education I was constantly trying to encourage the management of the school to look at better ways of engaging the children. After about 6 months, I realized that my children were at school for 2 reasons, socialization and the bush-lore classes that were offered once a week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they weren’t learning, but it was the way they were learning. Exams and cycle tests, homework and last-minute projects, not to mention compulsory sport, matches, plays, school events. I felt as though I lived at the school, it dictated what time I woke up in the mornings, when I could go on holiday, what time we ate lunch.
Since my children started homeschooling I have a peaceful home, my children are engaged and eager to learn. My daughter is self motivated and is getting results that she never received at school, her motivation is that she gets to spend every Wednesday at her beloved stables, learning everything she can about horses and riding from Traci Thompson, the owner of the yard where her horse is kept. She has even worked out a timetable around “Stable Day”to make sure that she gets through her syllabus as she is required to do.
My son is obsessed with nature, facts and science. he has a propensity for memorizing facts that boggles the mind. How he learns is through his passion, projects and subjects that interest him and keep him engaged. He does have a tutor once a week who covers the basics with him, and he is happy to focus for that morning on maths and english, subjects he knows he has to know. He then practices the concepts covered during the week but not ad nauseam, once a concept is grasped he gets to move on.
Taking the step to move away from traditional education wasn’t easy or without criticism but so far it working for our family and that is what is important to me.