On the occasion of our son’s graduation from school
It is probably not general practice or accepted for a mother and father to write a testimony for their school leaving child. That is normally the job for a person of reputation in an educational institution who distantly knows about a learner and is professionally obliged to say something good to advance the young protégé’s university or career hopes.
But then, we are not just the parents. We had also been the supervisor and principal responsible for our son’s home education for the past eight years. So, in his case we will ‘only’ be members of a parental unit who happens to know the protégé’s best and worst character traits and can still find words of praise.
We are not public school haters (although I, the mother, have a lot of ideas for how to totally overhaul the education system!). We never planned to do home schooling. It happened by the doing of the One who created our little family and with Whom we write our life story together.
Our son was never disabled or ‘abnormal’ or having special needs. But he was and still is different. Not weird. Not strange. Still not ‘abnormal’. Just wonderfully different.
He doesn’t like the institution of school, but he loves learning.
He is not a genius (we didn’t have him tested 🙂 ), but he is quite intelligent.
At 17 he definitely isn’t a wise adult yet, but I am very sure that one day he will be.
Like most other children, our son, Michael, went to school at the age of seven. He became a well-enough adjusted, average student. He learned to fit in well enough, passed his tests and handled himself according to what was expected of him, but he had always been somewhat of a loner. He did make friends easily enough. Some moved away or classes changed and then he had to make new ones. That’s just life. Some days he came home and told us that he and a friend “helped a grade one/three learner against a bully”.
On asking what his favourite part of his day was, the answer – without exception, every single school day – had always been “break time”. He liked his teachers and they said they liked him. He was okay. But he wasn’t brilliant at his school work. Neither was he ecstatically happy. That’s life too. He (unsuccessfully) regularly faked headaches and tummy pains and every other trick in the book to try and miss a day of school.
We weren’t even considering home schooling before an ‘accidental friendly confrontation’ with the concept. We believed all the negativity we heard other people offered about home-schooled children, like them being isolated from the community and becoming unsocial, dysfunctional and who knows what? Certainly, we wouldn’t even have considered that, with our son being an only child! But somehow, we did listen to our son’s plea, we prayed about it and our Father in heaven led us along this way.
Michael was nine years old when he started home schooling in his Grade 5 year. I secretly hoped that he would go back to school after a year, but it never happened. He enjoyed it. And he excelled. It wasn’t always easy. Some days the daddy would come home to find us both in tears. But, as with all things in life, success and discipline must be taught, modelled and practiced. Finally by the age of twelve, we started seeing the fruit of the big step we took.
In the past eight years we saw Michael grow up to become a young giant – both physically and in heart. He thrived at home. Never ever did he fake illness again – he even worked through a serious illness one time. We saw our shy, quiet little boy transform into a happy, sociable, well-adjusted and daring child.
As an only child we were definitely worried about him becoming isolated and non-social, being home alone, but miraculously the total opposite of what every ‘expert’ warned us about, happened. He made new friends – good, keeper-friends who he still has and he even reconnected with ‘old’ ones from his nursery school days via social networks.
The little boy who was too scared to go to children’s church alone, who would never want to venture out without holding mom or dad’s hand, grew into a confidant young man, eager to learn new things and converse with people of any age, being it his seven year old niece, a ten year old friend, a peer or a colleague of his dad’s.
At age 13, he attended the All Africa School Convention and surprised us by winning two gold medals – one for photography and the other for short story writing. We knew that we did the right thing. Our son’s wings were growing strong.
He loves travelling.
He reaches out to other people easily.
He makes friends effortlessly.
He is strong, but kind.
He has a desire in his heart to help people and to become a peacemaker.
He listens to people.
He has a soft spirit.
He loves knowledge and says his goal in life is to learn a little bit about as much as he can. And he is proving it by telling us useless and useful facts about everything under the sun every minute of every day.
He thinks for himself, although of course, he is still young and must still develop communicating his opinion much more. Obviously his opinions will be tested regularly and it will change and being adjusted as he grows more mature and learns more about life and about himself.
We are sad that our son isn’t a child anymore, because growing up, eventually means leaving home. Hopefully that can be delayed for a while longer. We as parents are sure that we send a kind-hearted, confident young man into the world. We are also certain that he will make mistakes, but we know that he will learn from them. We believe that he is now ‘trained’ in the knowledge that he needs to advance to a university to further study for a career in which he can live out his life purpose. We also believe that he is ready for the ‘university of life’ – the place where he will never stop learning.
We know that our Michael, will live his name – which means ‘who is like Yah’ – and will be a good ambassador for his family and for his God in this world.
Although we are all for home schooling, we are not ‘home schooling above all’ fans. We believe that every family must make the decision about the right kind of schooling only after taking into account:
- The relationship between the parents;
- The relationship between the parents and child/ren;
- The child/ren’s personality/ies and passions;
- The needs, phase and circumstances of each individual family member; and
- The current phase the family as a unit needs functioning in.
We started home schooling because Michael wanted to, but we kept going, because we realised that it was the best way of education for him and also for us as a family.
To further prove his ability to adapt and persevere, Michael showed immense self-discipline during his last school year. In November 2013 we moved out of our house in Pretoria to leave for Egypt for a new phase in our family’s journey. As it sometimes happens in life, things got postponed and Michael’s matric year was disrupted in every possible way. We only arrived in Cairo at the end of March and moved into a house again on 1 May 2014. But, he kept calm and showed character in the way he went about his work. He worked through regular daily interruptions to get passports, unabridged certificates and all sorts of administration necessary for the move, done. He worked some evenings to catch up lost time. He also did his schoolwork wherever he had to – in restaurants, at friends’ and family’s homes, in guest houses and in hotels and sometimes even at the embassy.
As the ‘principal’ and the ‘supervisor’ of Olive Tree Home Learning, we are very proud of our learner, but as Michael’s parents we are bursting with pride and we cannot thank our Heavenly Father enough for the privilege of entrusting him to our care.
Thank you, ACE (first Tshwane Home Education Academy and later Queenswood Home Education Academy) for giving us an alternative to ‘bulk’ schooling.
And a special thanks to Erika Du Plessis (Principal) & Lynne Beneke (Administrator) at Queenswood Christian School. They both are examples of people living and loving with passion and who have compassion for the people they work and serve with. Erika is the type of principal every child and a parent can pray for their children to have. We really, really love them and appreciate their effort.
Fielies De Kock is also a wife and mom and hope to become a more successful writer of novels in the very near future. She currently resides in Cairo, Egypt, with her family, where they are trying to survive a new language and culture, while missing their family, friends and four dogs and where they are slowly and unwillingly warming up towards the building’s official ginger cat, known as The Cat.
Fielies is also known as Riëtte De Kock. Her first children’s book, Yeovangya, is available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0