The right school for my child, or the right school for me?

Am I living through my kids?

I vowed I wouldn’t, that I’d support them in whatever interested them, or in what they showed talent for.

I’m not talking about trying to steer my sons toward fashionable clothing or my daughter towards pink.

Nor am I referring to the infinitely creepy mothers from the Toddlers in Tiaras nightmare unfolding on my TV.

I’m talking about the big decisions!

Like where to go to school.

My husband and I chose to send our children to the schools we went to. We knew them, we respected them and we value the education they gave us enough to try to give the same to our children.

Great, very virtuous of us. Also costs and arm and a leg and gave us new respect for our parents and what they went through on our behalf.

Thing is, despite the very slight genetic differences between them, and we’re talking microscopic here, our three children are vastly different individuals.

Our eldest, Small boy aged almost 10, loves his conservative, traditional, Eton-esque school. He thrives on the discipline, the routine, the history and the legacy of his father having the walked the same halls before him.

Also, he thinks it looks like Harry Potter’s School – go figure.

Our daughter, Small girl aged 6 is at the equivalent school for girls. She seems to be enjoying it, but she doesn’t seem to be making friends easily and I don’t want her fire extinguished.

Tharos karateShe loves the school, but she lives for her two karate lessons each week where she is one of two girls in the dojo.

I was an only child. I didn’t know boys existed, so it wasn’t a huge problem for me being surrounded by small girls. Now, I don’t know if it is right for her or what just was right for me?

Our second son, Small boy aged 7 loved the school, but he didn’t fit in. He couldn’t understand why he had to follow the routine. He was ruthlessly bullied and told what he couldn’t do properly and he lost all his happy, bubbly self-confidence.

We didn’t want to move him. We wanted him to be happy. We wanted him to grow up in the same school community.

We fought. We ranted. We railed.

We did everything we could and then we realised the problem wasn’t the school, or our son, but us.

We wanted. We wanted. We wanted.

Small boy aged 7 started a new school this year on the very opposite end of the spectrum.

Kairos School of Inquiry, in Parkview, Johannesburg only has 24 students ranging from Grade 0 to Grade 7.

It is co-ed, which a new and exciting experience for my boy.

He has individual attention and he can draw and draw and draw.

Yes, driving to three different schools twice a day is exhausting, tiring and consumes enormous amounts of petrol.

But…

And here it is… he is happy and thriving. His focus is better, his reading is better and above all I don’t have to medicate him to deal with anxiety. His confidence is growing daily.

The education follows the Independent Board of Education curriculum albeit taught in a slightly different way.

They learn about fractions by dividing pizza, addition and subtraction with freshly baked muffins, Afrikaans through cooking lessons in the language and music in Zulu.

Small boy aged 7 does not learn by being talked at. He learns by doing. Kairos is wonderful in the way the teachers bring the technique of learning through action.

Small boy aged 7 makes sense of the world through art and communicates his dreams, fears and happiness through vivid imaginations.

Kairos supports him, nurtures him and adjusts its curriculum to meet his needs.

Kairos means time measured by the soul. There is kronos, which refers to chronological time and kairos, which is time to ask, explore and discover.

My son is able to ask questions and have them respected, answered and is empowered to find the solutions himself.

From the boy who couldn’t look anyone in the eye, he arrives at school, shakes hand with his teacher, looks him in the eye and quite clearly and audibly says, “Good morning Marc.”

Yes, the children use the teachers’ first names. They are people and mentors, not authoritarian dictators. It is accepted that the children are as worthy of respect as their elders.

One of the themes my son has covered has been the morality tale. He came home after the Boy Who Cried Wolf and told me the moral he had got out of the story.

It wasn’t the one I had been taught, but it was no less relevant.

His moral was that you should always listen and take a person seriously, because although they may have lied before, they might be telling the truth now.

Each week he states how he is feeling, why, what he is proud of and what his intention is for the week. They take each other’s feelings extremely seriously and have formed an incredibly loyal group of friends of all ages and both genders.

The school believes in:

  • The encouragement of critical and self-reflective thinking and active questioning, not passive acceptance
  • The empowerment of young people to find their own answers
  • The mentoring of children through successive levels of thinking toward higher-order reasoning and emotional sensitivity
  • The importance of listening to others views in the search for personal truth
  • The power to stand up for your morals, ethics and belief in right and wrong
  • The respect for the ideas and opinions of those around you
  • The truth that one question may have many right answers

The head teacher, Marc Loon, has an incredible bond with the children in his care. He also is very active in the Mankind Project and the co-founder of Boys to Men in Johannesburg.

His group of teachers are extraordinary and have worked in all sorts of educational institutions including at Brockwood Park School in the United Kingdom.

As a parent, as a mother, it hasn’t been easy. My educational paradigm is on the other side of the scale.

I’m learning too. Like how to cook vegetarian food for a troop of hungry children – tough crowd!

Yes, it is different.

Yes, it can be scary to go in the face of tradition.

Yes, it is exciting watching my child come alive, seeing him happy and confident.

Yes, it is very rewarding.

Overall, it was the best choice for him and so, it was the best choice for us.

Would it work for your child?

I don’t know. Every child is different.

Through the whole process the most important hurdle I faced was that as adults we value differences, but we expect all children to be the same.

They aren’t.

They are different as you and I.

Celebrate it. That’s where genius comes from.

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13 thoughts on “The right school for my child, or the right school for me?

  1. Hi Victoria.

    I have just read your blog (with great interest and intrigue) – July 10 2013…a bit late maybe, maybe not.

    I went to Marc’s first info session back in 2010. I was taken aback. Astounded. Insipired. Optimistic. I was a whole lot of things and ever since then I have been thinking long and hard about sending our daughter to Kairos. She is going for an assessment in August after almost a year in Grade 0 in a mainstream school.

    I really just want to find out how life at Kairos is in 2013 (if possible)?

    Many thanks.

    Rob P.

    • Dear Rob,

      I had very high hopes for my children at Kairos. Sadly, they did not pan for us. We struggled with the lack of certain structures and legalities. The school was not registered with the GED or ISASA and as we intend to travel overseas we needed a little more substance in terms of the curriculum. Both our children were assessed regurlarly by Melanie Hartgill and were foudn tobe falling further and further behind in terms of academics. That said, they grew enormously in terms of their confidence and social skills. They are both now at Japari and catching up the academics incredibly quickly. Sadly, in the end Kairos did not worl out for us, but I believe that Marc is an abolute visionary and that the school will live up to its potential.

      • Dear Victoria.

        Thank you for the open and honest feedback.

        Our children’s education is the one thing that keeps me awake at night…

        Best wishes and good luck to you.

        Rob.

      • Thanks Rob. At its core, Kairos is a long term investment. You can’t just switch back to mainstream you have to see it out. For us that couldn’t work as my husband’s work is very mobile.

  2. As a linguist, I am absolutely fascinated by the idea of teaching young children language through other lessons. That is lovely to hear – I speak seven languages and not one of them was learned through drills and repetitions and tests, no matter how great the teacher. I would have loved to attend a school like this – and even more, I would love to teach at a school like this.

    Also, kudos and love to you for being strong enough to admit that your children are different and to be able to do something about it. That’s amazing.

  3. The Clown and I are considering a different (Waldorf) school for our 7 year old who is creative and hands on. Despite the barriers to this dream (money and his mother), I would love to see him in this kind of environment. At times I wondered if I wanted him there for him, or for me, because we as parents do sometimes get the two motivations confused. Your post reassures me that though I might have loved to go to an “alternative” school as a kid, I can trust my instincts in thinking my step son would thrive there.

  4. Great story, really. I wish “back in my days” we had schools like boy age 7. I did not fit in a box then (or now) and it would have been nice to be given the confidence to accept all of it and myself at a young age. Glad things have changed… At least for boy age 7 and his classmates.

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