011 452 4042


Teaching self-regulation
Visual illiteracy in a visual era
Doing it Myself
When the going gets tough…..
Using visual cues and spatial organisation


The Importance of proficiency in counting and bonds
Preparing Speeches
Getting organised at the start of the new year

Do hard things
How to help your child complete a school project (Grade 2 and 3)
Doing Homework
Developing respectful, self-controlled, kind behaviour

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
Teaching self-regulation


I am sure most moms will agree that nagging a child to do their responsibilities in the morning is the last thing you feel like doing! Independence is age-appropriate in the Foundation Phase, but handing over responsibilities is quite a challenge. A child cannot be dependent on mom’s nagging to get the job done.

A good idea is to introduce a “responsibility chart”. This is not a star chart ie there is no reward for doing what has to be done, as you would do with a 3 – 5 year old. Its more a reminder chart to hand over the responsibility. The child has to learn to self-regulate and methodically work through the chores so that he/she is finished in time for school. It also means no play until the job is done! All you have to say is “Have you done all your jobs this morning?”

Jobs on the responsibility chart will depend on the child and what they tend to forget. A suggested list has the following: Make the bed, open the curtains, shoes in the cupboard, towel in the bathroom, dirty clothes in the wash, close the drawers, tidy floor.

If these jobs cannot be accomplished by the time it is time to go to school then the consequence is to wake the child up 15 minutes earlier so that they CAN do their jobs. The solution is NOT for mom to quickly do the jobs!! 

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase

Visual illiteracy in a visual era

A phrase I keep hearing in connection with today’s children is that they are a “visual generation”. This reason is often given for why children are shown so many videos and given free access to so many screen devices. However one crucial piece of logic is missing.

Imagine if I were to go and live in a country such as China, where I could not understand the script. Imagine if I lived in a city centre where the script was evident everywhere in advertising, newspapers and other reading materials. Would I, over time, and through repeated exposure to the script alone, learn to read and write it? The answer is a definite NO. Any student of language will tell you that it would take the average person many hours of lessons with a skilled teacher to master a foreign language in a different script.

Why then do we assume that through repeated exposure to visual material, children will automatically understand what they are seeing?

Decoding of visual symbols is something that has to be taught. Just because you have watched or seen something does not automatically guarantee that you have understood what you have seen.

So then how is visual literacy and decoding taught?

The first and best place is through reading books together with small children. Book reading with children involves most importantly, conversations and discussions around the pictures and concepts in the book. Daily reading of books to children from around the age of a few months will teach visual decoding of pictures. As they grow this will extend to visual decoding of written symbols as a precursor to reading.

For educators: click here for a research article from BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) site on the benefits of reading.

Educational games that involve decoding of pictures and symbols will support this process. Games such as “Who is it” and “Zingo”, memory games and puzzles (real ones that is) will support and enhance the process of learning to interpret visual symbols.

On the theory side: Complex visual literacy involves the following skills:

Basic skills: visual attention, visual discrimination, visual memory, visual spatial relationship, visual sequencing, visual figure ground discrimination, visual form-constancy and visual cloze procedure. It also involves interpretive cognitive skills (Bloom’s taxonomy): comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (making value judgments.)

Just because you as an adult understand the visual symbols you see around you in movies, adverts, print media, books, TV programmes and screen activities does not mean that your child has correctly interpreted these symbols. We as parents need to go through the steps involved in helping children make sense of visual stimuli before they can maturely understand, interpret and evaluate visual media.

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
Doing it Myself

An important striving for children in the 6 – 11 age group is to do things for themselves (Erik Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages refers to this as “industry vs inferiority”). They find great satisfaction in learning to do difficult tasks themselves,.

My daughter is 8 years old and I have been making a conscious effort to include her in as many adult responsibilities as possible, allowing her to try out her skills even with difficult tasks. We baked rusks recently – she wanted to mix the ingredients together which was hard but she managed. She is learning to iron her uniform with supervision and can handle hanging up the washing alone.

When parenting this age, avoid doing everything out of YOUR need for speed, perfection or control! It is VITAL that children are involved so that they cultivate a love for meaningful activity.

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase

The basis of all education rests on one important skill- the ability to decode abstract symbols and make meaning from them (alphabetical, mathematical, artistic, algebraic etc). The best thing one can do with a child in the Foundation Phase and younger is to READ daily to them, discussing the pictures in the book. 

Watching movies does not teach decoding; reading does. 

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
When the going gets tough…..

The Foundation Phase as its known is called this for a very good reason – these are the years that values are set in place for a whole 13 years of schooling and beyond. These years can also be quite busy with different extra murals as children try their hand at different things.

When involving your children in extra murals (never too many of course), bear in mind that one of the most critical values to cultivate is an understanding of the implications of committing to something.

. Someone has prepared the lesson for you
. Someone has paid for you
. Someone has made the time to take you there
. Someone is expecting you to be there
.Someone is going to be spending time teaching you     

Initial commitment must be carefully thought out. After that, commitment involves a fairly high level of maturity; as the novelty wears off, one has to help a child continue to meet and fulfil their commitment beyond an impulsive and emotional decision to just “quit”. Completing the term or the semester or the season is reasonable to expect if the initial decision to join was carefully made in the first place. Whilst I don’t believe in forcing a child to do something he either hates or is destructive to his personality, I also believe that we can’t parent based solely on the emotions of happiness vs “I don’t feel like it”. Pushing through develops character, perseverance and tenacity and also shows dependability and integrity.  

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
Using visual cues and spatial organisation

One of the most difficult things to adjust to in formal schooling is REMEMBERING things and teaching children to remember things themselves!! Routines change and school requirements change, and it can be tempting to have everything dependent on you the parent. However your job is to work yourself out of a job,  and so you have to find ways of handing responsibilities over. Here are a few practical thoughts on how to work towards that over time:

“A place for everything and everything in its place”. 

In our home things “LIVE” in certain places. ** Home is not the army, and we are not regimented, perfectionistic or over-controlling, but procedures are helpful. Here’s how it works:

1. Lunchboxes LIVE in the corner on the counter next to the grocery cupboard. Consequently I can always find them when I want to make lunches. I usually ask for the lunch boxes, but my children know where to put them. Filled lunchboxes get placed in the same area on the edge of the counter where my children will walk past on their way out of the door. This VISUAL CUE helps them to remember to pack their lunchbox in without me reminding them.

2. My purse and cell phone “LIVE” on a certain shelf in my study. Anything that needs to be given to school (money for a show, reply slips, raffle sheets) gets placed either on my purse or on the lunch boxes in the kitchen so we remember to take them with us. Reply slips can then either be put into the pencil box or the lunch box for going to school – whichever is the most likely place to not get lost and to be remembered! School bag pockets are not always the best, and clothing pockets are the worst!!

3. Keep a supply of used envelopes which “LIVE” in a certain drawer for sending things to school. Write the child’s name, their class, the amount and what the money is for on the outside and STAPLE it closed.

4. Uniforms need to “LIVE” somewhere once they have been removed – a hook, the door handle, a hangar, over the back of a chair so they don’t crease for the next day.

5. Extra stationery needs a big shoe box that “LIVES” somewhere logical (eg in my study in a big cupboard) so that extra glue, pens, rulers, name tags and crayons can be found by children who need something. However they need to ask before taking so you can control how much is being used.

6. Labelling stationery – I find it very helpful to not just put my child’s name on pencils but to also to add a piece of coloured tape the width of cellotape (available at Waltons). Its very easy to spot your pencil right across the classroom if it has a bright yellow strip of tape at the top!! And the basic instruction to small children is “NEVER lend your stationery out” otherwise it will all go missing! It can then “LIVE” in their pencil bag permanently!!

7. School hair accessories need a box to “LIVE” in – we have a small colourful shoebox on the dressing table.

8. Write notes and prestick them onto the back of the kitchen door, your car window, your purse or the dashboard (whatever works for you!) if you absolutely mustn’t forget something! Teach your children to write reminder notes.

9. Get a small whiteboard and place it in an obvious place (kitchen, passage… mine is in my study). Divide it up into 7 days. Use it to write extra murals, school times, special days etc. Permanent items such as extra murals get written in permanent koki, weekly items in erasable koki. This is a VISUAL CUE for personal organisation.Information then “LIVES” in one place.

10. Upcoming events, invitations, school flyers etc need to “LIVE” in one place. Mine get pinned to a pinning board in my kitchen or presticked under the whiteboard until the week when they occur, at which time we write them on the whiteboard.

11. Magazines for cutting out should “LIVE” in a certain place where a child can independently go to cut out pictures for homework, knowing for sure they are allowed to cut out of these particular magazines!

 12. Important stationery such as scissors, cellotape, glue should “LIVE” in a known place for children to use. Their own stationery should ideally “LIVE” in a big container like an ice-cream container for use in their bedrooms.

13. Uniform in the classroom: your socks LIVE in your shoes, your jersey and lunch box “LIVE” in your bag and your shoes “LIVE” under your chair if you change. The best way to not lose a school jersey at PE is to tie the arms together or tie it around something. If something goes missing look for it immediately!! Of course every item is labelled…..

14. Odds and ends – coloured paper, glitter, paint, feather, crafts, wool, face paint – are more manageable if they “LIVE” in a cupboard or dedicated drawers and can be accessed for school projects or art lessons.

*When  tidying up you can now say things like “go and put this where it lives” or  “Where is this supposed to live?”  Use for other things like “Where do your shoes live? “

Orderliness and home procedures are essential when teaching independence and personal responsibility. Gary Ezzo in his book “Toddlerwise” (Parent-wise solutions, 2004, p30) says “Learning is positively impacted by order and routine and negatively impacted by random chaos”. 


Parenting in the Foundation Phase

My daughter is in Grade 2 and so I am consciously aware of the importance at this stage of a thorough grounding in certain basic mathematical concepts as a basis for later Maths learning. I taught Grade 5 Maths for many years and know how important a good foundation is. Despite what anti-homework parenting commentators say, it is clearly evident in the classroom that children benefit from practising their bonds and tables at home. Here are a few thoughts on Maths in Grade 1 and 2 (I am pre-supposing that the child has already mastered one-to-one correspondence and understands number concepts):

 1.  Credit Card Maths homework: take a short-cut now and you will pay later! There are no shortcuts to cementing in Maths concepts for later use. Never skip an oral Maths exercise because the teacher has no evidence you did it! Always be available to do Maths with your child.

2. Repetition of oral counting activities and bonds develops basic neural pathways which will be used ALL THE TIME in later mathematical calculations.

3. However memorisation without meaning is a waste of time, so if your child can’t, for instance, count successfully in twos to 100, you will have to work with the teacher to make sure they conceptualise this. In this instance you will have to go back to counting in ones and using a 100 number chart where they can see that counting in twos is to count one number then skip one and so on. Visual cues such as colouring in every multiple of two (this would have been done in class anyway) will help this child. Use physical counters if you have to.

4. Counting in ones has to be proficient both up (from 0 – 100) and down (from 100 – 0).  The most tricky part is counting “over a 10 barrier” ie 29 – 31, or 49 – 51, as they have to think not only about which unit comes next but which ten is coming up. To help here, start at a number mid-way between two tens and ask the child to continue eg start at 36 and ask the child to count from there to 100.
5. Do the same with counting in twos– count upwards and backwards, and don’t only start at zero.

6. Also count in fives, tens and elevens as this also supports early times table memorisation.

6. Bonds of ten: because our mathematical system is a base 10 system, EVERYTHING you ever do in maths is based on one critical understanding, and that is the concept of ten. The proficiency should be so fast in Grade 2 that if you say “seven” they should immediately say “three” and so on. To really help bonds of ten, you should probably do them frequently even if they are not given for homework. Try a speed competition where you flash a flashcard and the child must give the corresponding bond (1 + 9, 4 + 6, 5 + 5).

7. Some of the places where they will need bonds of ten:

adding and carrying

subtraction with dissolving

place value


algebraic equations

mental maths 

7. Using bonds of ten to help with other bondsI am a visual learner so this may not work for everyone, but I use visualisation to help with bonds greater than 10. So for instance bonds of 17. If I want to know the answer to 9+ ? = 17, I can use the following process: 9 plus 1 = 10 (said in another way, I need one more to get to 10), and on top of 10, I need 7 more to make 17. So the 1 more plus the 7 more gives me 8. 9 + 8 = 17. You want to help a child get away from counting upwards on their fingers all the time and to use abstract concepts to find the answer. Drawing a numberline can also help them imagine this.

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase

The first speech in Grade 1 is quite a new experience for both parent and child and the way it is handled in Grade 1 will set the precedent for many speeches to come! 

Having just completed the “first speech” with my Grade 1 daughter, I have put a little thought into how to proceed. During their Grade 1 and 2 years, you can work towards preparing speeches as below, depending on how confident your child is and how comfortable they are with reading. The goal is for them to develop greater independence and confidence in the preparation as they progress through school. 

Consider these:

  • Find out about the topic and make sure you are clear on the requirements. Discuss with your child what the teacher said and read any guidelines that were given. Make sure you know how long the speech should be and when it is due. 

  • Start early – never leave a speech to the last minute. Start preparing on the day the task was given, otherwise you put your child into an unduly stressful situation. It should take at least 3 or 4 days to prepare a 1 minute speech to requirement for Grade 1.  Trust that the teacher has given the correct amount of time.

  • In Grade 1, the parent will write the speech out verbatim for the child. However, the content and phrasing should be a combined effort – encourage the child to say and suggest sentences, and assist them to “say it right”. Suggest ideas or thoughts and see if they can express these in sentences for you. 

  • Be positive and encouraging! Don’t shoot their ideas down in flames!

  • DON’T TAKE OVER AND WRITE THE WHOLE SPEECH FOR THEM!! it is not your speech but theirs, however imperfect it may be.  Rather an imperfect genuine article than a polished performance that is clearly the work of the parent. Remember teachers see your child all day every day and they are aware of your child’s true ability!!

  • Read the speech to the child and time it to make sure it is the correct length. Make sure you are both happy with the content of the speech. Encourage use of linking words such to maintain flow if ideas. Try to have an introduction sentence or “starting off” sentence” and a conclusion or “ending off” sentence.

  • Rewrite the speech in clear, fairly large printing so that your child can learn to read along with you. Write each sentence on a new line.

  • Assist them to learn the speech by reading one sentence then reading it over again. In this way you can read and learn slowly through the speech even on the first day.

  • Learn the speech: On subsequent days read together or allow the child to “read” the speech and repeat the sentence again. Your focus here is on learning the speech through the preferred method of READING as opposed to parrot learning. They are at the stage of learning to read sight words and  certain sounds, and “reading” their speech with you will grow their general reading skills too. Can be slow but its worth it!

  • Key cards: When they are starting to feel confident in knowing the speech off by heart, make key cards for them. A key card has starting words, important words and names or difficult words. One sentence per key card. Rationale: a child who speaks from memory has no help available if they get lost or feel nervous or forget something. Its fly or die and the teacher can’t help!! A bad experience here can be quite scary. A child who has learned to speak referring to key cards has learned the lifelong skill of using READING for learning as opposed to ROTE MEMORIZATION for learning

  • Number the key cards. Essential!

  • For those interested in the cognitive side, children doing parrot speeches are working only on the lowest level ofBloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills  known as recall, and possibly the mid level of comprehension. Those using key cards with understanding have been through the process of analysis and are doing synthesis as they present – both high levels of thinking.

  • Use highlighter to show where they must hold up a picture or item in the speech.

  • Take time to help your child to master the skill of looking at the key card to remind them, saying the sentence then turning to the next card.

  • Practise on as many family members and friends as you can find! Children in Grade 1 are VERY keen to do their speeches and having other audiences will boost their motivation to do it well.

  • Make sure they have everything packed and in a plastic sleeve or folder on the day. Encourage them before they leave for school. 

Grade ones especially are very impressionable and responsive to direction and training regarding school matters. Make full use of the opportunity to encourage good practices in Grade 1 that will build a foundation for the many speeches to come!


Back to top


Parenting in the Foundation Phase
Getting organised at the start of the new year

Getting into the swing of things takes time at the start of a new year, and more so when your child starts in Grade R or Grade 1. This can be a big adjustment for both child and parents! Here are a few practical ideas that I have used to keep me sane – you may have other ideas or variations of the same!

1. Have a year or month calendar in sight – even in this age of technology calendars have advantages. Visual cues, planning of dates in relation to other dates and looking ahead are advantages. Children learn from visual cues and start to learn organisational skills. Remember the principle – start with concrete and when they are older move to abstract.

2. Have a small white board for the current week. Mine is where the whole family can see it and shows extra murals, swimming lessons, school lessons like Art, my appointments and my husband’s appointments, play dates and social events. Once a week I transfer from the main calendar to the weekly board to keep on track. Colours can help you to identify who is doing what. Everyone can see what everyone else is doing.

3. “A place for everything and everything in its place”:

  • For school hair clips (to save you lots of money) – a brightly coloured small box with attached lid – an obvious visual cue for keeping hair bands and clips (and you don’t keep losing the lid). I used a bright shoe box.

  • Filled lunch boxes go on the same counter close to the door – hard to miss as you leave.

  • Uniforms that will be worn again need either a chair knob or a wall hook, a coat hanger or some place to be stored neatly (boys tend to throw uniforms randomly and need a specific place!)

  • Buy a ring file and file away all those notes from school, extra mural timetables or receipts that you need to keep. Clear out at the end of term.

4. Stationery:

  • Use coloured cellotape in addition to name tags on stationery – easy to spot your pencil across a room

  • Instruct your Grade 1 or 2 to say “My mommy says I mustn’t lend out pencils” if you want to have something left of the stationery you bought at the beginning of the year!!

  • Check stationery daily at the beginning and less frequently as time goes by, for those who bring their stationery home. Teach your child to check their own. Follow up immediately on lost items.

  • Keep a small box somewhere with extra stationery.

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
Do hard things

You may be familiar with the term “helicopter parenting” or “lawnmower parenting”, where parents hover over their children, smoothing out their lives and manipulating their environment to create perfection and happiness all around. The research is clear: such overly – parented children are ill equipped for life and so cocooned that they have few strategies for coping with difficulty. Simple things in life (looking after yourself, caring for your own baby, holding down a job, maintaining your own home) become huge mountains to climb when you have low resilience, perseverance and tenacity.

I am convinced that we all helicopter to some degree – do you remember all the Rescue 911 and other real life drama shows that you have watched that have shaped your thinking about children and safety? We are all afraid – of crime, kidnapping, danger, broken arms, swarms of bees, hurt feelings, bruised egos and numerous other dangers that we believe are around every corner! Finding wise ways to promote confidence, security, independence and resilience takes thought, planning and effort in our overly cautious age.

One of the themes I used for my teenage youth group last year was “DO HARD THINGS” based on the book “Do Hard Things: a teenage rebellion again low expectations” by Alex and Brett Harris (Multnomah Books, 2008). A fascinating book! I saw my teens challenging themselves to be on time, get up early, work hard, serve others through running Holiday Club, engage in personal sacrifice and rise to meet challenges that they thought they could never meet.

Gary Ezzo in his book “On Becoming Childwise”, (Parentwise Solutions 1999, page 27) says: “In little ways, every day, we disassemble our leadership in order to defer to tender little wills of our children. Why? Because we fear letting them down. We avoid their bad feelings and pursue their good feelings. This type of parenting only produces emotionally fragile children, children who lack the coping skills necessary for the real world.”

DO HARD THINGS: its an excellent phrase to help us remember that children and teens need to hone their life skills on challenges rather than be sheltered from life.

Back to top

Parenting in the Foundation Phase
How to help your child complete a school project (Grade 2 and 3)

Over many years of teaching I have given and marked countless numbers of school projects for English and other subjects! And looking back on my own primary school years, I can still remember the first project I ever did in Grade 4, where I was quite proud of my own efforts at a project on transport! Of one thing we can be sure, there will always be school projects, and so our goal as parents in the Grade 2 and 3 years will be to train our children to handle projects maturely. This will stand them in good stead for managing their projects more independently as they get older.

Principles for teaching a child how to do a project:

1. Explain to your child that projects will and should take up to 2 weeks to complete. The teacher should provide sufficient time for the completion, and should have given you a due date.

2. Start on the first day. In your own mind, break the project up into stages, and make sure you do a little every day. Leaving it to the day before due date, you run the risk of encountering a crisis that prevents you from doing the project in a meaningful way, and you are more likely to take over too much!

3. Stages can include:

a. Go to the library and get books. In depth reading is more likely to happen with a book than surface-skimming on the internet. Internet reading requires a high level of cognitive evaluation, as one has to discern whether you are using a good or a doubtful source. Children’s books on the correct level will be a good place to start for gathering information.

b. Read the question carefully together and find out the main headings for the content

c. Get a rough book and let your child write one main heading per double page so that you can start collecting the information (eg our project on seasons had 4 headings: spring, summer, autumn, winter)

d. Read the question again and see what sub headings the teacher requires. Write these on one of the pages for EACH main heading (eg summer I must find out information on clothes, weather, plants, sports, animals)

e. Sit together with your child and help them to read a section in a book on one of the sub headings.

f. Talk about the info together and together formulate a sentence in the child’s own words. For the first project you will helping here, as their reading is still very basic.

g. Let the child write the sentence in their rough book on one of the two pages set aside for collecting info. Help them copy correct spelling from the library book or look in their own dictionary. Call out spelling if they can’t find the word.

h. Intersperse collecting of data with preparing the neat project. On some days collect information, and on other days make headings, do drawings, find pictures to copy or print, or plan the layout.

i. Only collate the final product once you have all the info, pictures, drawings and headings ready. You need to play around with layout before sticking anything onto cardboard.

j. Always work on paper to stick onto cardboard so that you can correct errors or re-do if something doesn’t work out!

4. Try to encourage your child to produce their own work, imperfect as it may be, rather than stressing perfection and computer-generated neatness. Strive for quality first, then neatness but not an over-emphasis on striking perfection.

5. Respect efforts at independence and own work, but suggest improvements where you believe a child was slap-dash. Children who work fast and untidily on purpose should be stopped and made to re-do sections, with clear instructions for the next day to take care over their presentation. However over-control will lead to resistance and rebellion, especially if mom tries to take over and impose her ideas!!

If you do the first project properly (ie you focus on teaching the SKILL of HOW TO DO a project as opposed to just getting it done) you will stand yourself and your child in good stead for future efforts. I saw greater independence in my son when he prepared his speech soon after his first project, as he now understood the steps of the process for himself.

Back to top

Doing Homework

Many parents have commented that they need some guidance on their role, now that their children are in Grade 1 or 2. Homework is a big topic, and I want to describe an ideal situation whereby your child will gain maximum benefit from school. However, in doing so, I need to compare the ideal with the huge move towards outsourcing the homework process to other people in an aftercare centre. I do realise that this is a very sensitive subject, but I also know that as parents it is our duty to take honest stock of our children’s wellbeing even if the topic is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Sitting on the parent side of the fence now (and remember I ran an aftercare centre for some time), I can see that most parents are completely unaware of the realities facing their children in the afternoons. Rather evaluate the situation now in early primary school years than wait until later grades when the work quantity is much greater. 

1.    Who should do homework with a child?
The ideal setting for every child is to do homework in the loving context of parental interest and support. Having myself run an aftercare centre at a primary school, I can vouch for the fact that it is impossible for any aftercare teacher to adequately give a single child the loving interest, attention and care that is needed in these two vital and sensitive years of educational development. It is also true to say that just having a parent available does not guarantee loving support and interest! So please read BOTH sides of the equation – the left column describes a situation we can all strive for in the best interests of 12 years of sound learning and parental sanity!! At the end of the table are comments on exceptions such as single parenting and both parents working full time.

Please forgive any generalisations – this is not a perfect process and will not describe every situation. I also write with great respect for all aftercare teachers knowing full well what their afternoons look like!!



Individual attention.

Large group of children all wanting attention.

Peaceful space to relax, eat lunch and play alone or with a sibling before doing homework.

Large noisy group of children who have already been together all morning, busily letting off steam. No space to play individually – whether it be for an introverted child who needs “me” time to replenish emotionally after a morning at school, or an extroverted child who needs to relax.

Flexibility as to when homework will be done based on the needs of the family.

No flexibility as to when homework is done. Possibly may be done straight after lunch when the child is still tired after a day in the classroom, and their attention to their work is not the best.

Individual attention, interest, comment, discussion, love and support.

Only loud or very confident or needy children are likely to get individual attention. Lots of competition for the attention of the aftercare teacher. In some cases – tired aftercare teacher who may have taught all day OR young inexperienced aftercare teacher who has no parenting or classroom experience or may not even be a teacher at all.  Lots of empty love tank children in one space together.

Homework done in a quiet space, in the lounge or bedroom or at the dining-room table.

Homework may be done in a different space every day – either a different classroom, different desk or different supervisor. Noisy exercise – lots of energetic children who don’t like homework, all in a room together. Few schools have a dedicated and sufficiently large aftercare centre.

Reading aloud alone with mom or dad in a comfortable place. This will include positive loving comments, encouraging feedback, gentle assistance with difficult words, time to chuckle about the funny story lines and space to include smaller siblings in the fun of learning to read.

You may be lucky to find an aftercare teacher who patiently listens to all the Grade ones laboriously read their full assigned reading for the day. This is almost impossible if she has to cope with more than maybe 10 children.

If you are not lucky, all 30 of the group will be asked to read their DIFFERENT readers aloud  TOGETHER and the teacher will sign all the cards. L

Time to work at your own pace. If you don’t understand something, your mom has time to help you and practise or re-do.

Everyone has to hurry up so everyone else can get out of the classroom and go and play.

Care can be taken to check each item, check the answers, check the stationery, check all the books and pack the bag for the next day. Good control can be maintained.

Lots of lost stationery, lost books, confused belongings and hurried completion of tasks.

Time to go to the shops and buy something that is needed or go and get a library book or other resources.

These children may be under pressure in the classroom without the necessary supplies or resources as there was not enough time to make arrangements.

Mom can help with the time-consuming task of helping to prepare a speech or project. 

Higher level thinking activities that need lots of time may be avoided or glossed over in aftercare. Either the child tries to do the process alone and fails, or the task is squashed in to inadequate time or the mom ends up doing it for the child.

·         It follows therefore that overloading your child with extra murals in Grade 1 and 2 is not wise.

·         It also follows that children with two working parents will need organised parents who are wise enough to structure peaceful afternoon/evening time that includes relaxed space to do or revise homework. These parents will making sure their children avoid TV and screen activities during the week, and will be working together as a team to cover the bases of love tanks, discipline and homework demands together with supper and evening routine. 

·         Single parents can do the same and make use of homework done already in aftercare to then revise, check, comment, encourage and improve on the quality of what was done. Certainly listen to the reading. You can focus more time on speeches and more complex activities.

2.    When should homework be done and how long should it take?

I am quite sure opinions vary on this, but my advice is as follows:

·         Come home and get changed;

·         Have lunch and chat and catch up on the day. Fill up love tanks through taking interest in the day and their activities. Look at art or other items brought home.

·         Play until a certain time. Children need to process their emotions from the day and enjoy their own space too;

·         Start homework at a certain time (not a regimented time but a guideline time to help everyone remember to do it). I am quite flexible, but 4pm is my deadline.

·         Spend between 30 minutes and 45 minutes on homework, maybe longer for a child who is battling.

·         Plug in some love either before or after homework in the form of reading to your children, playing a game, playing outside or watching them ride.

·         No TV until homework has been completed AND they have played outside or independently in their rooms. 

·         Chores and supper

Some families complete homework with younger children while waiting for older siblings and then the child can play for the rest of the afternoon.

For children who get home later, I would advise fitting homework in when you are able to relax and concentrate on the activity! This could be when you get home, while supper is cooking or while one child is bathing. Certainly TV will be avoided in favour of love activities.

3.    Where should homework be done?

·         Reading can be done in a comfortable space such as on a couch or the child’s bed or out in the garden. As an English teacher, my emphasis would be on comfort, enjoyment, being relaxed and encouraging the child’s interest.

·         For written work such as sums, writing words or letters or sticking in pictures, work on a table sitting properly with good light. Their desk or the dining-room table are good.

·         Never do homework in front of the TV.

4.    Why is homework so important in these two years?

·         There are certain tasks that improve in speed, fluency and accuracy with repetition. They need to become common knowledge that the child can use every day. This means you can practise the following from when each one is introduced – work according to the teacher’s request or just repeat these in the days that follow. PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT!!

o Counting up to 100 – up and down, in ones, twos, fives, tens.

o Bonds (all bonds from 2 – 20)

o Most especially bonds of 10 as our numerical system is a base 10 system.

o Tables from when they are introduced in Grade 2

o High frequency/sight words

Back to top

Developing respectful, self-controlled, kind behaviour

Grade R, 1 and 2 are very important years in a child’s school life, and it is helpful if parents have a sense of what they should be trying to accomplish during these years to support the education process and make their own lives a whole lot easier! I have jotted down a few ideas to get you thinking!


·         In Grade 1 especially, with classes much bigger than the preschool, children may go through a whole re-evaluation of the moral values you have passed on to them, and may come home with strange behaviours and reactions that you are not expecting. They will be jostling for position socially, making new friends, observing different reactions to authority, and with the greater freedom available on the playground, they may be pushing some boundaries to see how far they can go.

·         The first term requires some re-statement of values. Some examples could be:

o   “In our family we speak nicely to each other. We never mock or laugh at other people. Just because other children laugh at their friends does not mean you have the right to do the same.”

o   “Teasing hurts other people’s feelings and focusses on their weaknesses. In our family we love and care for people and make them feel accepted.”

o   “Yes there are children who break the rules – jump on the tables, run on the corridors, throw litter, backchat the teacher. In our family we love and respect our teacher who works very hard for her class every day, and we obey the rules because they are there to make everyone safe.”

o   “Our bodies are private and we respect each other in the bathrooms even if others are playing silly games.”

·         The first term of Grade R, 1 or 2 requires that parents evaluate how THEY speak about the school and about the teachers. If you engage in a constant verbal barrage against all teachers at every opportunity, you will find you have a disrespectful child who is unappreciative of the supremely hard work teachers do on a daily basis. Speak positively!

o   “Wow your teacher is very clever thinking up such a nice Art activity”, or

o   “Your music teacher always comes up with such exciting songs and activities”,  or

o   “Isn’t it lovely that your school has a pool and your teachers take you swimming every week. Lots of schools in South African don’t have pools”,  or

o   “Aren’t you lucky that you have a wonderful library teacher who chooses exciting books for you to read?” or

o   “Your Grade 1 teacher has such a beautiful classroom – she has worked very hard to make all those posters for you to read from”. 

·         Persevere through term 1 and insist on a return to the considerate, kind and restrained responses you have been cultivating in your home. Apply consequences (ie warned up front) where necessary.

o   For disrespectful speaking say “try that again” or “Come back later and try that again”.

o   Draw the line firmly at “toilet humour”,  instead cultivating a sense of respect for the privacy of a person’s body. Isolate a child who engages in discussing or laughing about bodily functions or sexuality matters.

o   For rude behaviour with siblings, shouting, unkind speaking, teasing or mocking, isolate the offender to their room for a period of time.

Back to top